Freedom of Choice?
An Animal Rights Article from

September 2009

The evidence is out there, if only you wish to do your research. You have the choice to learn and change and make a difference.

What a lot of people tell me to justify their decisions regarding their use of animal products, or animals themselves, as in the form of entertainment, is that they donít have a choice and just have to. Or that they were raised to be a certain way, eat a certain way, etc. As far as someone saying they were raised to be a certain way, for me all that amounts to is that they were raised to not make their own decisions. But I canít understand this kind of mentality at all, especially coming from Americans, who pride themselves on their freedom to choose.

Now, we can dispute all day and all night if Americans really have these freedoms or if theyíre just illusions, but letís just go with the idea that choice does exist, not only in the U.S., but in most parts of the developed world. Why is it so hard then, especially with all the alternatives available to people? Why do they choose to continue on in their selfish, uneducated ways even after theyíve been educated about abuses endured by animals in all kinds of situations, from the farms on which theyíre raised for food to the way theyíre treated in zoos and aquariums?

A friend of mine taking some time off in San Diego, CA told me she was planning on going to the San Diego Zoo. After giving her a couple of tidbits of information I found regarding their importation of wild animals and how these animals, particularly elephants, will never live out their lives in any way comparable to a life in the wild, she went ahead to the zoo anyway, said she really enjoyed it, and apologized to me, telling me she just didnít have a choice, she had to go. The problem here is that she did have a choice.

There are plenty of accredited sanctuaries and refuges where wild animals, byproducts of circuses and other arenas of abuse, are kept so that the public can be educated on their plight. TAOS (The Association of Sanctuaries) provided a list of sanctuaries which followed their strict guidelines for keeping animals, for example. Although TAOS is no longer, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries can be the new go-to site for information on accredited sanctuaries and the guidelines they are required to adhere to. People can visit these non-profit facilities and see animals up-close, understand why these animals are in captivity to begin with (thereís usually a horrific history of abuse and a terrible life involved), and get everything they would from a zoo.

In fact, CAPS (Captive Animal Protection Society) posted a press release in July 2009 discussing their new film entitled No Place Like Home, which exposes animal abuse in zoos. Although the zoos are based in the UK, the abuses are mirrored in other nations as well, including America.

What people donít understand is that zoos typically want younger animals because they attract more visitors, and more money Ė this is a business of exploitation and profit, after all. Once these animals are too old or sickly, zoos donít care for them to the very end like sanctuaries would. Instead, they often sell these animals to animal dealers, who may then sell them to places like roadside zoos, canned hunts, in which there is no hunting whatsoever since the animals are confined with no escape and then killed, or others who will exploit the animals further (accredited zoos arenít allowed to sell directly to hunting ranches, so the animals often end up there through some 3rd-party middleman). Circuses do the same thing. Zoos that arenít accredited have that much more leeway to do as they please.

No matter which way you cut it, or what zoos will tell you about educating our children about animals, these arenít places you need to go to and support with your money. Children learn nothing except that these majestic animals are undeserving of a life of freedom and are placed in artificial environments for their selfish viewing pleasure, to usually be taunted and screamed at by these same children whose parents fail to teach them respect for other living things while claiming they want to ďeducateĒ them on animals. But I digress, and I move into totally different problems facing society and movement toward enlightenment and change. So getting back on trackÖ

Yes, you do have a choice. No, you do not need to attend zoos or circuses to see animals up close and personal. Unfortunately, there are too many animals already in captivity as a result of illegal breeding and trading, and the lucky few who are saved find their rest at some of the accredited and recognized sanctuaries and refuges that genuinely care about the well-being of these creatures and who work tirelessly to implement new laws for their protection.

Those are the places you should support, those are the places you should be giving your money to, those are the places where your children will learn something that will open their hearts towards acceptance of other living things as well as fellow humans. Those are the places that will spend their money saving, transporting, medicating, and providing the best environment they can until the day these animals die. Those are the places that will often rescue wildlife, rehabilitate them, and release them back into the wild whenever possible. Zoos and aquariums, which get their animals from breeders or breed the ones they already have only to get rid of them when they get old, and trap them from the wild as well, canít say the same. The evidence is out there, if only you wish to do your research. You have the choice to learn and change and make a difference.


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