Children love seeing live, unusual animals. “So cute,” they say. Teachers and parents enjoy the exhibit, as well. The exhibitors are knowledgeable. But is the message being given to the children acceptable? “Do as I say, not as I do’ “It’s okay for us to confine these animals in cages, hold them, hand-feed them but don’t you children or your parents try it. They are dangerous, it is against the law, and you can’t have one as a pet. They are not for you.”
These classes are never offered free. Their primary purpose is not really to benefit the children. Would the handlers do this without being paid? Never. These shows are an investment, not legitimate education. The exhibitors make a living from the exploitation of creatures that have either been stolen from their native land and shipped under inhumane conditions, or that have been bred to exhibit. Unless they specialize in one species, (cats, reptiles) classroom exhibits seldom have more than one of each species. This would not be a profitable investment – too many animals to cart around, too expensive to feed and house.
But who is there to speak for these caged animals? Who looks upon them with compassion as they are carted into a classroom? They are condemned to a life of captivity. Their days are spent being moved from place to place and being exposed to the sounds, smells and touch of humans – their natural enemy.
Wild animals are genetically programmed to be free. This longing cannot be ‘trained’ out of them. They never ‘become accustomed’ to constant confinement. Freedom is their natural heritage. Ask yourself why captive exotic animals so often attack their owners. Few animals, living freely in the wild, attack humans, and then only from hunger, or fear. Many captives do. They never adjust, never lose their need to be free from the human predator, and from confinement. These exploited animals will never drink from a natural stream. They will never climb a tree, or swing from limb to limb in pure joy. They will never bound across an open meadow. They are denied a natural diet and fed domestic animal food. They will never pull a fresh leaf or ripe berry from a growing bush, or catch their own live prey. They will never dig into, smell, or feel the soft humid earth under their feet. They will never curl to sleep with, and most likely never see or touch, one of their own species. They are condemned to live their entire lives under these stressful, unnatural conditions.
At night they are left to pace in an empty cage, lacking companionship and a natural habitat. This cage, most likely, has a concrete, or wire floor, to prevent a desperate attempt to escape. In early morning they are removed from the larger cage into a small one in which they have barely enough room to turn, or stretch to rest. They are transported, year round, in a noisy vehicle that seldom provides heat, or air-conditioning. Both predator and prey are packed in together for their journey.
Children do not need to be exposed to living animals in a classroom. There are zoos where, although never ideal, these animals are given a certain amount of stability and freedom and are confined with others of their own kind. For those who cannot visit a zoo, information is available from TV animal programs, Internet, videos, and movies. Inviting these entertainers into a classroom encourages them to continue collecting and exploiting these defenseless creatures of the wild. More of these traveling exhibits are becoming available. The children go home, and quickly forget, as their attention is focused elsewhere. The animals go home to wait for the tedious, stressful cycle to begin again the next morning.
by Marjorie Davis