Skip to content

Operation Nix-the-Petting-Zoo

After my long weekend up North I returned to a message from our neighborhood association announcing a picnic on April 11 on the Village Green. We paid a heap of extra money to live on the Village Green, so anything that happens there is basically happening in our front yard. Like a "BBQ, pony rides and a petting zoo!" Naturally, upon reading such words, my stomach turned and I immediately thought of making plans to be away from the house that day so I wouldn't have to see any of the festivities or try to negotiate walking the dogs around them.

When I started thinking about trying to get the association to cancel the pony rides and petting zoo (which are often part of one business as a quick Google search of "traveling petting zoo" will demonstrate), my several-year vegan husband said, "What's the use? It's not like these people care about animals. It's a barbeque for heaven's sake. Their kids are probably gonna be petting the animals they're eating and they might not even know it." Though I don't disagree, I guess my thinking was to at least take some business from the places that use living animals for profit because trying to affect the ones that have already killed the animals is not as urgent at that point, not to mention there's no way that would work. I might be able to nix the petting zoo, and maybe even the pony rides, but the "BBQ" will remain untouched. (Here's a factsheet about petting zoos, which at least in Florida have been a public health threat, to say nothing of the exploitation and suffering of the animals.)

I'm fairly confident that I don't know anyone who won't say that they don't approve of animal cruelty. Everyone claims to like animals and want the best for them and be against cruelty. Many will say they "love" animals. Meanwhile, most eat them, wear them and "love" the Kentucky Derby, yet don't approve of dog racing. It boggles the mind. Actually, it boggles my mind. But it shouldn't because it makes perfect sense. Their values are simply a reflection of the dominant culture, which they have either consciously or otherwise chosen not to challenge.

What would you do? Is it silly to go after the petting zoo when the event will likely
require hundreds of pig, cow and chicken corpses?

I'm thinking leave town is the best answer.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Olivia #

    Is there any literature out there telling/showing how petting zoo animals live when they're not on display and what happens to them when they're too big or too old or too ill to continue "working" for free? Is there a way to explain it to your association in a way that shows you're interested in the children's emotional welfare (after all, you will be having a child of your own soon). Is there a way, in other words, to make it clear that with this seemingly innocent fun the children are really receiving an education in "using" others for their own pleasure and that this practice suffocates their innate compassion? Might there be someone in your association who's actually waiting for a courageous neighbor to step up and defend freedom and justice for everyone? You won't know unless you try. Maybe giving yourself more time to reflect and to listen to options will help you arrive at a point where you feel you've made the best decision for all concerned. Seems like you're going to be encountering even more of these "calls" when your child comes into your life, and he's going to be watching you! 🙂

    March 21, 2010
  2. ethix view #

    No, Mary it is not "silly" to go after any of it. There is still time. You ask what I would do. I would contact the organizers of the event and the members of the association in writing about *all of it*, including the BBQ.

    Exposing and repeating the absurdity of "loving" animals, yet using them for entertainment and to please our palates is necessary and always worthwhile. One person, at the very least, will read your views and chances are discussions will happen. Phone and find a reporter willing to hear you and perhaps write an article in a local paper. Write a letter to the editor. Are there any "kindred spirits" near you, who will support you?

    I have a saying by Elie Wiesel above my desk that I take to heart: "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest".

    Go forward. Good luck!

    March 21, 2010
  3. I agree with your husband. "Picking the low hanging fruit" by going after events like the petting zoo or circus may get large organizations like PETA donations, but it won't effectively challenge speciesism. Always strike at the root by spending energy explaining what speciesism is, why it is wrong, and the vegan solution to it.

    March 22, 2010
  4. Great post, very informative and though provoking. I think leaving town would be the best answer as well.

    March 22, 2010
  5. I have to agree with Dan. Pointing out one form of exploitation while ignoring another gives the wrong idea, especially when the other is animal product consumption.

    March 22, 2010
  6. Protesting the petting zoo and pony rides in your front yard "won't effectively challenge speciesism" – relative to what? There is no scale of absolute effectiveness against which vegans must measure their every action. Sometimes you have to think on the fly, sometimes REactions are called for. In response to the announcement of this picnic – which has been planned without your input and which is in some way intended to represent your neighborhood (and therefore you) – it is entirely appropriate and even productive, certainly, for you to make your thoughts heard.

    I'd protest the rides and the petting zoo, suggest some diferent and less cruel fun activities for the kiddos, and lobby for tofu dogs – cooked on a seperate grill. All of which could be done with one letter, email, or phone call. It's not really going to take a huge chunk out of your time spent doing More Effective Activism. Besides, it's your neighborhood. Why shouldn't you and your input be welcomed to the party?

    I didn't know that you're expecting a child. (Wow!) I also don't know how long you've lived on this Village Green, or how attached you are to it, or what relationship you already have with the neighborhood association, etc. But…you could look at this as an opportunity to give them a kick in the butt, in hopes that a couple/few years down the road, the neighborhood picnics might have evolved into something that you and your family won't want to leave town for.

    Here's hoping. 🙂

    March 23, 2010
  7. John N. #

    I'm with you Shiva. By not responding just because it doesn't strike at the core of animal exploitation does nothing for the current situation that animals are currently in. Offering alternatives for the BBQ is great and do point out that the "regular" hot dogs and burgers could be the same animals they're petting. You'll most likely be looked upon as some freak unless your neighbors know you well.

    Our HOA used to have a summer BBQ in the courtyard. I went to one, before being vegan. The next one I didn't attend even though there were vegan Boca Burgers available…cooking on the same grill as the dead cow burgers…no thanks!

    We'd all love speciesism to just go away but being a universal trait shared by the vast majority of people in this world it's not going to anytime soon.

    March 23, 2010
  8. nemo #

    nemo is back with his valuable insight and suggestions. Pop a couple of pills, have a glass of wine, and go out and socialize with your carnivore neighbors.


    March 27, 2010

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS