By Shannon Haupt, Contributor
The Index would like to apologize for a number of miss prints in last week’s version of the following story.
The stated goal of the student organization known as ZooKeepers, formally known as the Kalamazoo Students for the Prevention against Cruelty to Animals, is to “allow students to connect with animals and improve their well-being […] and plan to develop relationships with other organizations that work towards animal welfare.” I must first dispute the name of this organization, as no wild animal belongs in a zoo, and humans have no business keeping them anywhere except their natural habitat or as close to it as possible.
After being exposed to the kind of cruelty that exists in the realm of exotic animal captivity for the purposes of research or entertainment through my internship at Save The Chimps, Inc., I feel it is necessary to remind ZooKeepers of their originally stated goal. While I fully support their mission statement, I firmly believe their actions are highly contradictory and deeply harmful to the well-being of animals.
Is this group’s intention truly to protect the welfare of animals, or is it to serve the amusement and entertainment of humans? Based on my observations of ZooKeepers, a large amount of their Student Activities Fee is allocated towards bringing exotic petting zoos and shelter dogs to campus. Over the past year I have witnessed the mistreatment of numerous animals, including an infant capuchin monkey, a camel, and a handful of rescue dogs at the hands of this student organization.
Last year, ZooKeepers hosted a ‘Dogs on the Quad’ event, where shelter dogs were doled out to students for a fixed amount of time and they could take them for a walk around the quad. While seemingly harmless, the general student population was not educated beforehand on how to properly hold a leash or pick up a dog, and this resulted in an afternoon of mild negligence and mistreatment towards untrained rescued puppies.
Since the beginning of last year, ZooKeepers has twice brought a mobile petting zoo to campus. Petting zoos exploit captive exotic animals for the sole purpose of human entertainment. Not all exotic animals in captivity are acquired illegally, but even so their ownership and display perpetuate the belief that it is humane to keep exotic animals as pets. It being a mobile petting zoo only makes matters worse, as it means that all animals brought to campus are subjected to the trauma of being put into a cage and then, riding in a trailer or the back of a car.
As stated by BornFreeUSA.org, “keeping wild animals in captivity is inherently cruel, as it deprives them of the ability to engage in instinctual behaviors in their natural environment.” ZooKeepers aims to educate about and connect students with animals, but all they are doing is perpetuating the idea that it is acceptable to use animals for human amusement.
While ZooKeepers does host regular volunteering events at local animal shelters, they are actively negating any progress made in the realm of animal welfare by then supporting the very industry they should be fighting against. Their resources would be more effectively spent to help shelter dogs gain any medical treatment they need and be put up for adoption. They could also spend more time educating themselves on the cruelty that occurs behind the scenes of petting zoos, especially mobile ones, so that rather than supporting the degradation of animals’ lives they can join the fight to end it.