Animal Musings

The other day, the OH and I were out with Bubboo when we came across a donkey.

Bubboo hadn’t encountered a donkey before that, ever. So, we turned around this way and that, pointed to the donkey, with excited shouts of ‘Look, Bubboo, that is a donkey! That is what you call a donkey!’. There was absolutely zero reaction from Bubboo, but that is not the point of this post. πŸ™‚

The point of this post is that I immediately went on to feel guilty about our actions. Pointing fingers at the donkey, making it feel like an oddity – wasn’t that what we were doing? How would I feel if the donkey had pointed us out to its kids and shouted – ‘Look, humans! Those are what you call humans!’.

The OH, as usual, was super calm and there was no reaction from him to any of my rants. Gah!

Okay, I probably over-reacted a bit there, but I surely didn’t over-react about what this particular incident led me to think about – zoos and circuses.

I started hating zoos for this very reason – they make objects out of animals, pull them out of their natural habitat, all the while not even treating them right – once I became a conscious person, a more aware traveller on the path of life. Circuses are even sadder. But then, zoos are indeed great ways to teach little ones about different animals and birds that they might not see commonly around them. Of course, there’s always the fact that we could take Bubboo to Gir to show her lions or to Africa to show her zebras, but then, is it really a practical thing to do? Does that always happen? And this has to happen when the little one is still a toddler, curious and absorbing things like a sponge, right?

How does one draw the middle line?

Your thoughts, please?


12 thoughts on “Animal Musings

  1. I really understand your dilemma about zoos, TGND! Very easy to say you will only take your kids to exotic locations to show them the animals in their natural habitat but it isn’t always practical or possible. People who say that talk from a certain position of privilege.

    Having said that, I still feel guilty at the thought of animals in cages. Ultimately, what message are we conveying to our kids? I don’t know what the middle path is. I would be as confused as you are.

    I feel the same way about Diwali too. I have had a thoroughly enjoyable childhood, waiting to ‘burst crackers’ every Diwali, but now when I think about it, I find it a very irresponsible choice. I wouldn’t want to encourage my kids to light fireworks the way I did. But having said that, I feel sad thinking I will be depriving them of that joy.


    1. @Pepper

      Happy that you ‘got’ me. πŸ™‚

      I am confused about the Diwali thing too. Most other festivals, actually. We used to make a big hullabaloo of festival days back home, but now, they are very simple affairs at our place. I often wonder if I am depriving Bubboo of all the fun that comes from celebrating festivals with a big family.

      And the bursting of crackers too – it was, indeed, magical. I am not sure if I will be doing that with Bubboo, and that is making me guilty all over again.


  2. My kids have never gone to circuses, these are horrible places – which elephant naturally steps on a stool and is made to balance on a tiny chair? Why should fire be used to scare a snarling lion to jump through hoops lit up in flames? Would it be okay for me to take any person, find out their phobia and then force them to face it, day in and day out?!

    To me, it is just not right. When I refused to take my kids to a circus, I was told I am being a spoil sport, that I need to keep my ideology to myself. But I want my kids to truly like animals, respect them and for it to not just be ‘my’ ideology. I told the kids we’re not going, they weren’t very happy because their friends went, disappointed but not traumatized in any way.

    We refused to go to see any shows with animals but have visited a couple of zoos abroad and one in Shimla when the kids were really small. While the zoos abroad are better (ones in India suck for sure, always, even the best ones!), it is clear that constraining an animal to a small space is just not right. There is no way around this – much like we have to get that all milk comes with cruelty, there is really no way to un-remember that the cow is making milk for her calf, who is artificially inseminated in her and then kept away from her to ensure that milk production is available to us.

    If you have seen that show on orcas in Sea World, it is so clear that animals get warped too with imprisonment, it messes with their minds. They are most emphatically NOT happy. Also elephants in temples – there’s a movie out called God In Shackles on them.

    I like the idea of going to national parks – this is what we’re going to try to do from now on. A few really, really state of the art zoos would be a good idea (where are these though…not in India!) – if we don’t see animals enough, how will we care about them and do what it takes to protect their habitats? Still, nothing like seeing animals in their habitat.

    We volunteer at CUPA, see dogs for their personalities, see them when they are sad and traumatized and do what we can. And come home to our little Loopy, who soothes like no one can.

    p.s.: Whatever you do, please, please don’t go to Bannerghatta National Park. The hippo has so little, unbelievably dirty water and the way the lions are maintained is beyond horrid. The butterfly park is fine – those creatures can fly in and out and are well taken care of in terms of the environment created. Clean with some good video exhibits.


    1. @Sangitha

      I so get what you mean! I am yet to find my middle ground, though. Like you say, kids do need to see animals to understand what they are. But then, a trip to their natural habitat might not always be possible. Zoos remain the only way to educate kids about various species of birds and animals – other than TV of course.


    2. Just thought I will point out here that animals have been COMPLETELY banned from performing in circuses in most states in India now. It has been several years infact. I can vouch for it in Maharashtra atleast. There is absolutely no elephant balancing on a stool or a lion jumping through a hoop like you say.

      Circuses only have acrobats, clowns and other performing artists (human!) . I do think kids would be utterly fascinated by those things. If the only reason you are avoiding circuses is to prevent cruelty to animals, then please rethink πŸ™‚


  3. The zoo always puts me in a moral dilemma. I love animals. Absolutely love. So, when I had the prospect of going to the world famous San Diego zoo, I jumped onto it. The visit was nice, went much without thinking, but I did find the big cats bored as always. Then I went again in April after a gap of nearly 5 years with parents and I realized that the enclosures were sort of small. Specially the tiger had a small glass enclosure cut off from his 2 brothers who were being aggressive to their older brother. But SD zoo also had a wild animal safari park that’s bigger and more naturally set. Then there isn’t any denying that they do amazing research and conservation work for animals.
    Also, I have been to sea world where I first noticed that all giant killer whales had a turned down top fin and then I saw the documentary Black Fish(highly recommended!). It cut me off Sea World but I didn’t stop parents from going cuz they had always expressed that wish.
    I don’t know what to do!


  4. In this case, perhaps you’re blurring the boundaries of your sensitivity and teaching your child a bit (or a lot as per your phrases on overreacting)… πŸ™‚ It’s not like you took the donkey out of its way to show it to your child and neither is it as feasible an option to perhaps go closer and indicate towards the donkey, as you would have had it been a dog.


  5. I believe animals in zoos are happy beings TGND. If you were to go by what is written in ‘life of pi’. Have you read it?
    Plus how do you know that the animals are not pointing at us? For all we know, maybe they are doing just that πŸ˜‰

    Just chill and take your kid to the zoo. A little while from now, it may all lose the magic for her. While she is still innocent enough to be excited by butterflies, birds and animals, let her! Soon enough, she will be thinking over everything like her mom does πŸ™‚ I totally understand your dilemma too. Our complex minds work that way ..


    1. @Aarthy1823

      Thank you for understanding, Aarthy! πŸ™‚

      I don’t much like zoos – I find the animals in them leading rather sad lives. Zoos pull animals and birds out of their natural habitats, make aliens out of them. But then, like I said in my post, zoos are a great way to show kids different sorts of animals and birds, and to teach them about the larger world around them. I will have to resort to taking Bubboo to the zoo, of course. Like you say, she will find it magical at first. I will let her enjoy them till the time she finds them magical.

      No, I haven’t read The Life Of Pi. I couldn’t get past the first few pages, even. It is so not my kind of book. 😦

      I love what you have to say about the animals pointing to us – of course, they might well be! We never know! πŸ™‚


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