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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at:

Friday, January 18, 2008

People deserve protection too

Earth to San Francisco Zoo officials: kids do stupid things. Further bulletin: kids who use drugs and/or alcohol do things that are even more stupid.

This is not to suggest that I am personally suggesting that the two brothers and the now late Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, were using any illegal substances when they were attacked by Tatiana the tiger at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day. News reports, however, have suggested that at least alcohol, possibly in excessive amounts, was involved on that deadly day.

Further, many news sources are now reporting that one of the brothers who was severely injured has told Sousa’s father that the three were taunting the 250-pound Tatiana by yelling and waving at her. The teens deny throwing anything into the cat’s enclosure, but it is clear that investigators are trying to determine whether that's true.

What I am trying to determine is why the issue of taunting Tatiana is even part of this equation. I begin this query by making clear that I do not believe Tatiana should have been taunted in any way, shape or form. Tatiana deserved respect; she deserved to be protected. She deserved these rights because she is one of earth’s living creatures.

But just as Tatiana deserved to live, so did Carlos Sousa. He was 17; his companions were 19 and 23, respectively.

These young men, kids in the case of two of them, might have behaved poorly that day. Maybe they did yell things at Tatiana and, if so, this was an inappropriate and unpleasant thing to do.

But, just as many adults do, kids sometimes do inappropriate and unpleasant things. In the case of young people, this stems both from lack of experience and maturity and, from what I have read, the fact that their brains are not yet fully developed. They make poor choices; most often they learn from their mistakes.

If any sort of taunting occurred, Carlos Sousa will not have a chance to learn from his mistakes, to learn that treating caged animals – or any animals - with disrespect is wrong.

But amidst the growing attention being paid to how these three young people behaved before and during their visit to the zoo, (a debate clearly rooted in who will be held civilly liable) is too little attention being paid to the culpability of the real adults in this circumstance: the people who were responsible for making sure Tatiana stayed safe?

My point is that Tatiana’s enclosure should have been taunt proof. While I am not sure the big cat would have been susceptible to attacking people simply based on how they behave, this contingency should have been considered when considering how she was kept.

I respect that zoos do a public service, I believe in most cases responsible, caring, knowledgeable adults are running them. But unless a keeper or docents were always watching out for how zoo visitors behave around its possibly deadly carnivores, there should have been no chance Tatiana could escape, even if she were confronted with poor behavior.

To suggest otherwise is absurd. To somehow imply that these three young people, even if they were carrying on in an inhumane way, caused Tatiana’s escape, is simply an attempt to shift the blame.

We want our young people to learn to behave as reasonable, educated and compassionate adults. We do not want them to pay for their mistakes with their lives. This is true in this case as much as it in the case of young people learning to deal with another potentially lethal instrument: a car.
The current debate clouds the issue and should not prevent those entrusted with the care of nature’s beautiful and sacred creatures from ensuring those animals stay safe.

Just as this blog intends to draw attention to its writers' aim to help keep farm animals safely out of the food chain, and digresses today to point out that Tatiana should have been kept safe, today it also aims to advocate the protection of another animal: the human kind.



Anonymous Daithi said...

The zoo itself is responsible for the safety of it's visitors. The zoo animal enclosures should be people proof. It is very sad that someone lost his life taunting this non-domesticated zoo animal. The design of zoo enclosures should be animal friendly, aesthetically pleasing and visitor safe. A great example is our National Zoo in Washington, D.C..

January 19, 2008 5:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ann replied...
The San Fransisco Zoo has been in operation for many years. I doubt it was lax in securing 700 to 1000lbs dangerous Tigers. I don't know the whole story but it seems very strange the animals could escape so easily. (without human assistance)
The other point I wish to point out relates to when do people assume responsibility for your own actions? It is very tragic they were hurt & killed. But they were old enough to know the dangers. If they were younger children less than 12 then you could say the zoo failed to protect them. These young men used poor judgement. But they did have the capacity to make the correct discision. The zoo can't be responsible for their lack of common sense. That's just my opinion.

January 24, 2008 11:43 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, Tatiana is there for OUR enjoyment - we are not there for her enjoyment. Without getting into a big enviromental thing here, if she was left alone, where she belonged, this would have never happened. I am grateful to be able to see these majestic animals. Anonymous also states the rest of my opinion well (posted 1/24/08, 11:43 PM)

February 04, 2008 1:08 PM 

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