Hey Wild One,

No more euphemisms… zoos are animal prisons. People say, “But zoos save endangered animals,” but in reality 99 per cent of all animals at the zoo are not endangered. If zoos were only saving endangered animals, that would be great. Zoos are a business—usually the top tourist attraction in the state—and no matter how “natural” they make the animals’ caged-in areas, they’re still artificial. No amount of architecture can recreate a natural habitat of old-growth forests, fallen branches, plant species, and other animals.

People will say, “But zoos are so educational for children. They learn so much.” The truth is, kids only learn that giraffes have long necks, zebras are black and white, and some monkeys have pink butts. There is no education taking place—except the cruel lesson that it’s OK to enslave animals and put them on display for human amusement. It is much more educational to read the research of primatologist Dian Fossey or others who have studied animals in their natural habitats and learned about their true behaviors. Or, one can learn about animals from documentaries like Planet Earth. One cannot learn about nature by observing animals in an unnatural habitat displaying unnatural behaviours. What’s more, the stress of confinement and lethargy of captivity can also lead to neurotic behaviors like pacing and self-mutilation.

It’s important to know, too, that nearly every zoo sells its “surplus” animals to canned hunting farms, research labs, or circuses.155 “Surplus” animals are the older animals that no one wants to gawk at anymore. Breeding programs exist at zoos to ensure there are always baby animals around to attract a bigger crowd. While no one wants to see old elephants or old zebras, everybody wants to see baby elephants and baby zebras. In defense of the Detroit Zoo and Ron Kagan, Ron did change these practices. The Detroit Zoo no longer has animal acts or sells any animals to hunting farms, labs, or circuses.156 Kagan is without a doubt the most progressive zoo director on this planet; in May of 2004, he even agreed to release the elephants at the Detroit Zoo to an elephant sanctuary.

Without freedom, there is no reason to exist. Zoos have taken away animals’ freedom and made them living skeletons. The pride is gone. The will to thrive has vanished. The feeling of happiness has faded. The thrill of endless miles of roaming has been usurped. Everything natural to an animal has been made unnatural by the state-sanctioned animal prison system that operates for one reason and one reason alone—the almighty dollar. Here are some fun, educational, cruelty-free activities to enjoy with your family instead:

  1. Visit a farm animal sanctuary. Many wonderful organizations around the world have created sanctuaries for rescued farm animals who otherwise would have ended up on someone’s plate. Such a visit offers an engaging, interactive, up-close experience with animals for your children. Note: I am such a fan of farm animal sanctuaries that I have founded a charity to support struggling farm animal sanctuaries. You can follow the work we do and may even like to support in ways you can. Find our team working tirelessly ‘Til The Cows Come Home at www.tilthecowscomehome.org.
  2. Explore a tidepool, creek, or or other body of water. Water teems with interesting animal and plant life. Take a trip down to the closest natural pool and see how much wildlife you can spot. Maybe even canoe, kayak, or swim out to see what else you can find. Bring along an underwater camera to capture beautiful moments of discovery.
  3. Visit a wildlife rehabilitation center. This is a great way to learn about animals native to your home area. These facilities shelter animals that cannot be released back into the wild. If you’re near the ocean, you could find a nearby marine life rehabilitation center, too. You might even consider volunteering with your family, as these centers typically depend on volunteer workers.
  4. Explore your own backyard. When we truly look at our surroundings — especially familiar places that we usually take for granted—there’s no limit to what we might find. Head to your backyard (or local park), and go on a bug or bird safari. Take pictures of the creatures you discover (flash off), make a scrapbook of the images, then do some research as a family to learn more about what you’ve seen.
  5. Take a beach walk. If you live near the ocean, take advantage of your location. If you can find a guided walk in your area, fantastic. If not, go out on your own to do some nature watching anyway.
  6. Go on an eco-vacation. For the ultimate, up-close experience of nature, take your family on an eco-vacation. There are hundreds of companies across the globe offering guided, earth-friendly adventures suitable for the whole family. These trips will bring you deep into nature, without disturbing it. Responsible travel companies are committed to protecting the earth, practice sustainable tourism, and often collaborate with conservation efforts.

This is an excerpt from my book:

HEALTHY, SEXY, VEGAN MUMMA.

Your plant-based family guide.

Coming to stores near you soon.

Xx,

Donna