The short, miserable lives of zoo elephants: A Seattle Times exposé  »

Here’s a shocker: Elephants in U.S. zoos have been and continue to be subjected to awful living conditions, and reckless breeding programs, and suffer early, painful deaths.

[T]he decades-long effort by zoos to preserve and protect elephants is failing, exacerbated by substandard conditions and denial of mounting scientific evidence that most elephants do not thrive in captivity.


The Times did a first-of-its-kind analysis of 390 elephant fatalities at accredited U.S. zoos for the past 50 years. It found that most of the elephants died from injury or disease linked to conditions of their captivity, from chronic foot problems caused by standing on hard surfaces to musculoskeletal disorders from inactivity caused by being penned or chained for days and weeks at a time.


By 2003, the weight of scientific evidence that elephants failed to thrive in zoos, combined with pressure from animal-welfare groups worldwide, prompted U.S. agencies to dramatically slow the importation of wild elephants. An easy supply of elephants masked the premature deaths and decline of captive elephants in U.S. zoos. With their supply line nearly closed, zoos stepped up captive breeding to replenish the dying ranks.


[The Association of Zoos and Aquariums along with representatives from dozens of zoos that housed elephants] agreed to “speak and act with a unified voice” in claiming that elephants were thriving in zoos. Together, they hired a crisis-management firm and agreed to dub critics of elephant captivity as “extremists.” They also committed in writing to aggressively breed elephants, following a “species survival plan.”

That’s all from part one. Part two addresses zoos’ sneaky methods of importing wild elephants, and their efforts to keep their old, abused elephants out of sanctuaries like (Vegansaurus favorite) PAWS.

A consortium of zoos is also building its own sanctuary where zoos can send unwanted males. Officials broke ground in April on a 225-acre sanctuary called the National Elephant Center in Fellsmore, Fla. The first phase includes a 13,000-square-foot barn and enough pasture for nine elephants. The $15 million project will eventually house up to 36 elephants.

Accredited zoos also plan to use the center for breeding, one way to revitalize the nation’s elephant population.

Gift idea this year: Adopt a PAWS elephant. Zoos really are the grossest. If you want to show tiny children the magic of wild animals, take them to a sanctuary and let a nice staff person explain why putting animals on display is horrible in tiny-child-friendly terms. Or, you know, just watch nature videos on a big TV and recognize you can’t have everything.

[Photo from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (foster an elephant today!) by rabbit.Hole via Flickr]


Educational toys for zoo elephants! Because life in a zoo shouldn’t be a complete nightmare!  »

This is Emily (l) and Ruth, the two Asian elephants living at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Mass. They’re playing with their new toys, specifically designed by students in the Toys for Elephants class at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

The class has existed for two years, and was created in conjunction with Buttonwood Zoo Park’s director, Dr. William Langbauer, videographer Christen Goguen, and Vicki Croke. The history of the class, a video of the elephants, and a slideshow of these lovely ladies and their new toys are all at 90.9 WBUR’s site, and it’s all great!

As always, we don’t care for zoos as “places to display animals outside of their natural habits,” but they’re not as bad as they used to be (right?). Dr. Langbauer says, “One of our challenges is to give elephants the same sort of environment that they have in the wild…. They don’t need thousands of acres, they need enough room to be able to be together when they want to be together, and apart when they want to be apart.” That sounds reasonable.

We do love the idea of an artistic-scientific collaboration to keep Emily and Ruth sharp. Humans in retirement communities have activities for similar reasons! Not that we’re comparing elephants and the elderly, exactly (though Emily is 49 and Ruth is 54). The point is, if you’re a student at MassArt, you could make toys for elephants, and then see the elephants enjoy those toys, and that sounds pretty great. Plus the ellies look so happy! As long as they’re in a zoo, they might as well be happy.

[photo by Susan Hagner for WBUR]


Madrid knows how to treat its gay penguin couple, Inca and Rayas: Give them an egg to raise! ABC News has the story about the two Gentoo penguins, who for six years have been “like the best of friends, living cooperatively because they’re in the same enclosure” at the Faunia Park. And finally, they’re getting their own adopted baby to raise.

Spain’s doing better than you, Canada. Of course I hate zoos, but as long as they’re around, the animals within them had better be treated with dignity and respect. Equal rights for same-sex couples!


Hello, friends! It’s Mark’s WTF Wednesday!  »

You guys, two epic things happened in the past week! First, I turned 28 and then I got monumentally sick. I was so sick, in fact, that I showed up to my own awesome birthday party woozy and coughing up a storm, but still managed to have an awesome time and offend my mother with my horrible jokes. She sat in a corner of the room the entire night and sent me pictures of myself from her phone with desperate captions begging me I calm down and stop swearing so much. I couldn’t do it! I love to swear! Maybe that’s why I’m still sick.

You know how sick I am? I am writing this post from bed, where I am curled up with my knitting, Charmed queued up on Netflix (I am just starting to watch this show! Ten years late!), and my phone all ready to call up Allen and make demands of him. He doesn’t buy it anymore, though. Allen used to be at my beck and call when I was sick, but now he just tells me to stop pretending I’m going to die and drink some Theraflu. Can you imagine that he and I will have been together for four years on Sunday? Gross! I hope things don’t get too serious!

Man, am I feeling ornery this week. That’s why I’m please as punch (take that!) that a zoo couldn’t get pandas to mate in captivity.  Not only did pandas Sunshine and Sweetie fail to produce an heir, but they straight-up wrestled instead of doing the deed. I can relate to this because this is what also happens in my personal life. Every time I try to hug Allen at night, he kicks me. Hard. Then he blames me for bothering him because I should know that he is a very precise sleeper and cannot be touched. He also does this fantastic thing where, as soon as I have left the room during the night (even for as little as 30 seconds) he will roll himself into a sushi with ALL of the covers. Then, when I try to get them back, he kicks me! Four years, you guys!

Since this has kind of turned into my “grumpy anniversary post,” let me show you a video of a dog freaking out on an escalator (as dogs are wont to do) as the dude accompanying him laughs it up.

That is some adorable shit, you might be thinking, but how are you going to relate that to your own relationship? Easy, you guys. Allen is also a very particular escalator rider! He has to stand on his own step and look serious the entire time! And woe betide anyone who attempts to get on the step with him; he will put his arms out like a plane and prevent you (this is also how he dances), and if you still persist he will kick you. And by you, I mean me. And by kick, I mean ask politely to step up or down. Allen, like this adorable dog, knows that riding the escalator is serious business.

Let me end this for you with a clip of a baby otter squeaking. I’m going to post it without comment and not even relate it to Allen. This, I feel, is the way anniversary present I can give him because I am not sharing any more of his personal history and embarrassing moments.

That’s it for this week! Send me links for next week and have a love-filled Wednesday!


Guest post: Good news from Canada: The Toronto Zoo’s elephants are headed to the PAWS sanctuary!  »

Today was an awfully good day for animals in Toronto. On top of the news of the city council vote to ban shark-fin products, councillors also voted to send the Toronto Zoo’s three elephants to the PAWS animal sanctuary in California next summer.

Back in May, I posted at Vegansaurus about the three elephants: Toka, Thika, and Iringa. The Toronto Zoo recommended that month that their elephant program be phased out and the elephants moved to a better location, in part because research has shown that elephants in smaller herds suffer ill effects.

Zoocheck Canada and animal activist/Vegansaurus favorite Bob Barker both recommended that the elephants be transferred to the Performing Animals Welfare Society sanctuary (the beneficiary of Saturday’s SF Vegan Bakesale!) in California, and that is where Toka, Thika, and Iringa will go in a few months.

I’m sure something will piss me off again pretty soon, but for now I’ll enjoy the satisfaction of politicians deciding to do the right thing.

[photo by jacob earl via Flickr]


Zoo chimps not enjoying their gilded cage  »

A new study
from the University of Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation is saying zoo environments may cause behavior indicative of mental illness in chimpanzees. That’s kind of a lot of run around, I know, but they really aren’t pulling any punches:

Some abnormal behaviours persist despite interventions to ‘naturalise’ the captive conditions and we suggest that captivity itself may be fundamental as a causal factor in the presence of persistent, low-level, abnormal behaviour (and potentially more extreme levels in some individuals). The cognitive and behavioural challenges in captivity are fewer than in the wild—stressful and dangerous place that it may be—and many normal behaviours and normal development are precluded. While extreme levels of abnormal behaviour may be explicable by individuals’ particular histories, the pattern of low-level, pervasive abnormal behaviour shown by this study suggests that chimpanzee minds struggle to cope with conditions of captivity, despite the best efforts of those charged with their care.

So they are like, captivity could be fundamentally damaging no matter how great the zoo is. Well, that’s a development. Even if we pretend the majority of zoos aren’t total crap-holes, they are saying captivity itself is bad. That’s major. The study mentions lots of things zoos do to try and enrich the lives of their chimpanzees, like mix up their meal schedule and make them pretend-gather their food (yawn), but it doesn’t matter. The chimps are going stir-crazy.

They* are always bragging about how much longer animals live in captivity than the wild and it’s like, yeah they live extra-long crappy lives—it’s like The Matrix! They are safe but they aren’t alive!

Next time someone tries to tell you how captivity is not so bad and that some zoo is treating its chimps so well, you tell them, “It doesn’t matter, bucko!** Zoos are total bullshit!” Now, let’s get these animals to sanctuaries and stop taking new ones from the wild. Free the chimps!

*You know how they are.
**People like when you call them bucko. I know this, I was an anthropology major.

[Picture by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Stock]


An elk rescues a drowning marmot. Yes, WTF indeed. Way to go, elk!

I love the explanation from the zookeeper at the end, she’s basically like, “They are bored as fuck.”


Top 10 links of the week: an extravagant dance through veganism!  »

[Hilarious picture my grandpa sent me, from his friend: “People living in Colorado Springs wondered why their rainwater barrel was almost empty every day. They set up a couple of cameras and look what they caught on film”]

I meant to post this a while ago: an interview with the lovely Leanne from Vaute Couture!

FitSugar has a list of five books to help you go vegan. Did your favorite make the list?

I stumbled upon this site, Keep it Wild, that has a great article about what to do instead of going to the zoo. Let’s go do this stuff!

Time's take on this bullshit about banning undercover filming at factory farms.

Did you “like” my Megans United to Save Megan the Lab Chimp page yet? You don’t have to be a Megan. Let’s start a revolution!

Did you see this shit about arsenic in chicken? What. The fuck.

My discussion topic of the week: Did you see this piece in HuffPo about why veganism makes non-vegans so angry? Why do you think they get so angry? I think they are bitter because we are morally superior! In my humble opinion.

This Dish is Veg responded to the HuffPo piece by defending the omnis. What do you think?

WTF. This resort in Singapore captured a bunch of dolphins to entertain guests. It’s super sad. Two have already died. Sign this petition! Because that’s bullshit.

Care2 has an article on butterfly first aid! Did you ever imagine such a thing?!


Hello, friends! It’s WTF Wednesday!  »

You guys, I was wrong about only my pride being hurt in my fall down the stairs the other week. Turns out my body lulled me into a false sense of security with this whole “you only twisted your ankle” bit, and then threw me a curveball by taking my back out again. Honestly, I do not know how long I am going to survive, considering how often I’m falling down stairs, having my feet run over by shopping carts, and laying around watching Pawn Stars in an ibuprofen haze (600 mg! Holla!). Actually, the last part is pretty OK, considering that I could be doing much worse TV-wise. I’ve also been swearing a lot more now that scientific studies are telling me that it has a numbing effect and am enjoying flashing the webpages that informed me of this at Allen every time that he informs me that referring to things as “goddamn dinner, fuckers!” instead of saying “I’m hungry” is “not very nice.”

Speaking of Allen, we had our third anniversary last week. Trust me, no one is more surprised that he hasn’t yet murdered me and left me at the bottom of a lake somewhere than me. Instead, he actually bought me a new pair of professional shoes (sensible!) and took me out to dinner at Millennium (delicious!). I hadn’t eaten at Millennium since about 2005 because I am a bigger fan of shiny electronics than food, but goddamn (stop telling me not to swear, mom! It’s numbing my pain!), you guys, it was amazing, and I have the least refined palate in history! The best part of the dinner (besides spending time with my sweet babboo), was our server, Elizabeth, with whom I share an allergy to Codeine, and the table behind us that was made up of four middle-aged men talking about show tunes and bitchy out-of-town guests. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to turn around and screech “OH MY GOD! I ALSO LOVE THAT RECORDING OF FOLLIES!” at them, but making sure that I was not the only one having a good time really sobered me up. God, I hate being in a stable and responsible relationship.

Here’s something else that sobered me up: The comments that I got two weeks ago that suggested that the cow in the “jumping cow” video may have not been unhappy. I have to admit, my first thought was also “man, this video is cute” but changed to “WTF!” the second I saw the riding crop. I see a lot of these kinds of videos, though, and so I thought that this week we could all play a game: Cute, or OFFENSIVE and WRONG.

Our subject is the now-infamous baby-penguin-getting-tickled video. This video is adorable because the penguin seems fairly happy wandering around being cute, but here are my questions: Is it okay to tickle a baby penguin? And does the fact that this penguin is at a zoo cancel out any cuteness inherent to the act of a penguin freaking out by the affection they are receiving? On one hand, sure, penguins need love, but on the other, I see the tag on the penguin’s wing. Seriously? We couldn’t not tag and cage a penguin? Is it really necessary to do that for our amusement? Because here’s my issue: There is no reason for zoos other than to show us animals for amusement at the cost of the animals’ freedom. Therefore, is looking at these cute videos and hoping for more of them morally and/or ethically wrong? I honestly don’t have an answer for that and would love to gear your thoughts. NOW BACK TO THE OUTRAGE!

You know what I’m outraged about today? Butchering. It’s not enough that we have to deal with this whole “happy meat” and “humanely raised and butchered animals” myth (pro-tip: If an animal is butchered for food, it is not humane and they are not happy), but now there is this whole new “woe is me, the Bay Area only has one humane slaughterhouse left. Seriously? Animals are getting killed and your one concern is that we can’t “eat local”? You know what we can eat local? Fruits and vegetable and grains! We can make some delicious food out of that!

I guarantee that if you choose to click on the link and read the article, you will be sure that you are reading something from The Onion. What really does it for me is the fond memories that people have of slaughtering animals. You know what I have fond memories of? Going to Disneyland! Who in their right mind not only has fond memories of a hog-slaughter, but then decides to actually talk about it to the press? That is not even a thing! Just a quick reminder: Kissing your boyfriend on Space Mountain is a fond memory that you can tell your grandchildren about. Watching a hog defecate as its throat is slit, pumping geysers of blood into the air, should never be considered a fond memory.*

You know what, though? You don’t even need to have fond memories about butchering when you can take part at a Butcher Party. What continues to be wrong with people? Who decided that this was a good idea? The article mentions that one of the events featured a real gallows where dead animals hung by their necks and manipulated goat heads greeted the patrons! Delightful! Who needs a garden party or a barbecue when you can rent out a butcher to show you how to best desecrate a corpse! Way to go, humanity! Each week I think we can’t get any lower and each week you say “You know, Mark, there’s this thing on the internet…”

That’s it for this week! Send me links for next week and have a butcher-free Wednesday!

*Yes, this image is taken directly from Carrie.


Hello, friends! It’s WTF Wednesday!  »

What? Oh, I didn’t see you through this haze of prescription painkillers and tertiary muscle relaxants. That’s right, today’s WTF Wednesday is brought to you by the letters V, I, C, O, D, I, and N! That means that this post will be both mercifully short and also make no sense whatsoever. Just imagine we are all at an awesome party, sitting on beanbag chairs under a blacklight. That is how I feel right now, and so should you. Except I hope you can move your back, because I can’t move mine. Or walk straight. Enough of my whining, this is a party!

First off, here are some bears doing yoga. It actually looks more like Tai chi to me, but what do I know? The last time i did any kind of exercise was a jacked-up sun salutation on a Wii balance board (why does that fucking thing groan every time you step onto it? Does it know that it is lowering my self-esteem each time I want to play Rhythm Parade?). I always feature bad things happening to bears, so I thought I would post something awesome. Just forget that the bears are in a zoo, because zoos are horrible. Just focus on the amazing stretches they can do. Who even knew Bears stretched? And who knew that they could be even more adorable? I certainly didn’t.

And while we’re on the subject of bears, here is what happens when a stupid Toronto weatherman tries to throw pumpkins at polar bears. I mentioned last week that I do not believe that all animals love pumpkins. Example, this otter, whose look clearly states, “You want to be next, stupid? Why would you think I’d want a pumpkin? Did you get me a fucking Kindle or what?” I bet that otter wasn’t going to be reading the new Jodi Picoult, either. Anyway, here’s today’s lesson: Don’t throw shit at animals from high places. It is traumatizing and not at all pleasant, and you deserved to lose your microphone and also be ridiculed by the internet. Allen watched that video like five times last night. He was dying. I mean literally choking for breath. He was laughing that hard. Between that and this video of an Ellen writer going through a haunted house (“you are so rude!!!!!”), he was really on fire.

Fine, it wouldn’t be WTF Wednesday without some sad news: a porn star strangled a dog. Say it with me: WHAT THE FUCK. Why would you do that, porn star Jason Creed, a.k.a. Shane Michael Thompson? Why would you just take your three-legged puppy and beat it, strangle it to death, and then try to pass it off as a seizure? Here is some news: Seizures and BEING BEATEN AND STRANGLED TO DEATH present quite differently. I don’t even watch House and I know that. And why the fuck would you adopt a three-legged dog, who was obviously already coping with large difficulties in life, and then abuse it? What is wrong with you? Did you not realize that there is a special room in a special circle of hell that is devoted to people who are deliberately cruel to animals? Maybe you were drunk or high, which makes it even worse. Not even Vicodin can take the harsh edge off the idea of a poor unsuspecting dog being attacked by a third-tier gay porn actor. Thank god his friends and roommates turned him in, although what disturbs me EVEN FURTHER is that they also stated that they had known about the abuse. Why didn’t you speak up before the dog was murdered? At least this guy is in jail. I could make all sorts of jokes about that, but I won’t; partly because this story is too sad and partly because I have standards.

That is it for this week. As always, please send me links for next week or leave them in the comments. Have an awesome week!

[photo by South Beds News Agency via the Telegraph]

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