Friday, December 28, 2007

The Life of Pi

Yesterday's senseless killing has been overtaken by a far more significant one.

Many years ago I read a prizewinning novel, and amongst the opening rambles before the story really got going was a general discussion about the ethics of keeping large animals in zoos. As the child of a zookeeper the narrator was obviously on the positive side, and the main point of that little justification is worth trying to remember...

If the gates of an enclosure are left open, the animal may go for a quick wander outside, but will invariably wander back. Why? Because the enclosure is its territory. It has well defended boundaries, plentiful food, shelter and protection. Unless searching for a mate, most animals could not ask for more.

Those are my recollections, but that was recalling a work of fiction that I last looked at many years ago. The narrator Pi might have been deluded anyway, he claimed to have been stuck on a small boat with a fully grown tiger. Was there any evidence for his story? And if there is none, what can we learn from his delusion? Could a delusion justify the killing?


Faisal said...

Zoos, no matter how nice, are cruel enterprises. Animals are brought their against their will, to be gawked at, bothered, and forced to live unnaturally (although there are a few zoos that allow the big cats to "kill" a donkey or horse) and otherwise provide mindless entertainment. There is no study that proves they serve any educational purpose for the general public. Their only purpose seems to be "family oriented entertainment".

They are a complete waste of money, too. The same millions that go to pay for a single exhibit would go a LOT further in the wild. Many wildlife conservation projects have annual budgets of much less than what a single modern exhibit costs.

Just as attitudes towards circuses have changed, there really needs to be much more awareness of how pointless and unnatural and cruel zoos are.

Faisal said...

Oh, and Bhutto was a self-serving politician, corrupt to her core. Like virtually every other politician in the third world. The fact that her motorcade was slow-moving and had no effective separation zones in place, despite prior suicide-bombing attacks, is absolutely mind-boggling.

She was definitely not a beacon of hope, or a symbol of democracy. She was not even brave. Just stupid and greedy.

RNB said...

On zoos: the middle paragraph of my note was not really my opinion, it was what I recalled as the argument from the novel. I have some sympathy with it, but also with your view too.

On Ms Bhutto: again I understand your points. A more considered opinion later...