I finally said it out loud, and in a reasonably public place: that I think of zoos, safari parks and the like, as little better than prisons. This view has been a long time coming but I know when it started; it was an encounter with a (di)stressed polar bear in Bristol Zoo in the late 1970s. And it was finally cemented, first, by the exploitative and never ending false panda pregnancy saga in Edinburgh, by the slaughtering of healthy zoo animals that were surplus to genetic plans, and then by the sight of a squalid safari park from a West Midlands train a few weeks ago. There can surely be few better organisations at so systematically deceiving the public — and perhaps themselves – about what they do.
As Oscar Wilde so nearly said ...
I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in zoos
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.
But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother's life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.
This too I know – and wise it were
If each could know the same –
That every zoo that humans build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.
That's it. Back after a week or so.