United Poultry Concerns February, 20 2001
The Dallas Children’s Zoo – What To Do?
Contact: Rich Buickerood, Director
The Dallas Zoo
650 South R L Thornton Freeway
Dallas, TX 75203
Ph: 214-670-5656
Fax: 214-720-2242

Email the Members of the Dallas City Council:

Email the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department, which oversees the Zoo.

The home address for the Lacertes, the family that funded the remodeling of the Dallas Children's Zoo:
    Lawrence and Joyce Lacerte
    5323 Park Lane
    Dallas, Texas 75220

Dallas Zoological Society Board of Directors 2000-2001
Peter Aguirre
Aguirre Corporation
William Alcorn
JC Penney Co., Inc.
Jennifer Burr Altabef
Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP
Scott Anderson
Sharon Beach
Bristol Hotels & Resorts
Jeff Beckley
Dallas Morning News
Diane Brierley
Community Volunteer
Lyle Burgin
Corgan Associates
Karl Butler
ICC Energy Corporation
Barbara Chang
Commercial Real Estate
Cullum Clark
Cimmaron Partner
Todd Clendening
Deutsche Banc Alex.Brown, Inc.
L.D. Dabney
Regional Health Supply, Inc.
Alex Dean
Community Volunteer, ex officio member
Richard Douglas
Staubach Company
David Dunnigan
Read Poland Associates
Judith Elkin
Haynes & Boone, LLP
Bob Enriquez
Health Matters
William Evans
Vinson & Elkins
Edward Fjordbak
Communities Foundation of Texas
Carol E. Frank
Avian Adventures
Carmen Garcia
ABRAC Consulting
Richard Geiger
Thompson, Coe, Cousins and Irons
Don Glendening
Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP
Karen Gregory
Premier Travel
G. Michael Gruber
Godwin White & Gruber
Roy Guthrie
Associates First Capital Corp.
Michael P. Haggerty
Jackson Walker, LLP
Michael Hansen
Bank One
Steve Hargrove
Hargrove Electric
Steven Haynes
Antigua Enterprises
Michael Hurtt
West Hurtt Funeral Homes
Carmen Jones
Southwest Center Mall
Tim Jordan
Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, LP
Sylvia Sotelo Kidd
Affiliated Computer Services
Joyce Lacerte
Community Volunteer
Tom C. Leppert
Turner Corporation
John I. Levy
Kevin Lippincott
Jack Lowe, Jr.
Valencia McClure
WFAA, Channel 8
Ron McCray
Kimberly-Clark Foundation
Grace McDermott
Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce
Michael L. Meadows
Southwestern Medical Foundation
Carolyn Mentesana
Kimberly-Clark Foundation
Chelen Moore
Community Volunteer
Ben Muro
Valor Telecommunications
Lisa Olsen
Community Volunteer, ex-officio member
Sudhir Parikh
New York Life Insurance
Leslie Price
Texas Instruments
Jay A. Pruett
Central & South West Corporation
Byron Reed
Wells Fargo Bank
Frank Risch
Exxon Corporation
Frank S. Ryburn
Phillips Ryburn Associates
Robert E. Scott
Bank of America
Roger Skrobeck
Ernst & Young, LLP
Roger Snoble
Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Charles Sprague, M.D.
Southwestern Medical Foundation
Pann Sribhen, P.E.
PSA Engineering
Jeffrey Stern
Chase Bank of Texas, NA
Ellen Terrell
Pricewaterhouse Corporation
Barbara van Pelt
van Pelt Associates
Edward O. Vetter
Community Volunteer
Gayla Von Ehr
K2 Technologies
Autry Warren, Jr.
TXU Electric & Gas
Jeanne Whitman
Southern Methodist University
David Whitney
Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau
Karol Wilson
The Mansion on Turtle Creek

The Dallas Zoo is owned and operated by the City of Dallas and the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Board. The Dallas Zoological Society (DZS) helps support the Zoo. The President of DZS is Jim Howard. DZS is a 501 (3) not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1955 to help develop one of the outstanding zoological collections in the nation, in partnership with the Dallas Zoo. The Society's only purpose at that time was to raise private funds to purchase animals for the Dallas Zoo's collection. Now celebrating its 45th anniversary, the Society has expanded its role significantly.

The Dallas Observer reported on February 15, 2001 in “Chick Fillet: Life in the food chain includes a stop at Dallas’ children’s zoo,” by Charles Siderius, that the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo, which is part of the Dallas Zoo, gasses to death, refrigerates, or throws in the garbage twelve or more chicks every week. The zoo told the Dallas Observer reporter that its CO2 gas chamber is humane, that the children’s zoo experience of seeing and holding the chicks is educational, and that most parents are no more truthful to children about the animals the children eat than the zoo is truthful about the animals the children pet.

  1. Regarding the “humaneness” of the gas chamber: An article in New Scientist, May 19, 1990, reported on the use of gas by Ruth Harrison. The author of the influential book Animal Machines and a member of the Farm Animal Welfare Council in Britain said, “I used to be very much a proponent of CO2 stunning.” But a visit to a mink farm in Denmark, followed by subjecting herself to inhalation of various gas concentrations, changed her mind. Concerning the gassing of day-old male chicks by the egg industry, which she once condoned, she said, “In my opinion, it is no better than the old practice of filling up a dustbin with them and letting them suffocate.” Compassion in World Farming reports that in chickens, “Gas stunning will not lead to instantaneous insensibility to pain” (Karen Davis, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, p. 121).

  2. Regarding the claim that children are “educated” by seeing and holding the baby chicks before they are disposed of. The zoo intentionally lies to the children and betrays their trust. How exactly are lying and betrayal “educational”? The zoo in this regard is of the essence of traditions such as black slavery and 4-H, in which white children were taught to love the “mammies” who raised them and then sever themselves from black people and in which children are encouraged to nurture and love animals destined for slaughter. One question nowadays is, how many 4-H children witness and/or conduct the slaughter of their former friend and dependant?

  3. Regarding the zoo’s claim that it is “no worse than” parents who don’t tell their children the truth about the chickens and other animals they and their children eat: this is the “What I’m doing is no worse than” (some other terrible thing)” justification for doing something wrong. The zoo’s basic argument to justify its practice of using children and baby chicks to draw crowds and make money is that it is acting in accordance with accepted family and social behavior. This is true. The zoo is “no worse than” a society composed of adults who betray their children about the true nature of hamburgers, chicken nuggets, bacon, and steak. Hiding from children and lying to them about what animals are put through in order to become meat or to “give” milk and eggs, as well as indoctrinating children to eat “foods” from these animals, thereby increasing their risk of food poisoning, arthritis, obesity, diabetes and other diet-related maladies, is both child abuse and animal abuse, just as what the zoo is doing.

  4. Regarding the zoo as a social institution. A zoo is a public entertainment business masking as public education and, since the 1960s, “saving species.” A zoo comprises captive animals atrophying and being manipulated in artificial environments. Many of these animals eat other animals, dead or alive. As long as society supports zoos and the idea of the zoo as a “valuable” experience with nonhuman animals, the problem of feeding the captive carnivores will remain.
Please contact the Dallas Zoo (contact information above) and say what you think about what they are doing and what you think they should do instead, keeping in mind the zoo’s justifications, as cited in the Dallas Observer. One option mentioned in the article is the offer by Kathy Rogers, head of the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation bird sanctuary in Hutchins, Texas, to take the dozen or so chicks each week, care for them at the rehabilitation center, and when they are old enough, let them be feral on the sanctuary’s property. The zoo has declined Rogers’ offer.

Letter from Don Elroy, Director Tennessee Network for Animals follows:

To: Director, Dallas Zoo

I am writing in reference to an article in the Dallas Observer which referred to the Zoo's practice of raising and then destroying young chickens in the "CO2" chamber.

The idea of a zoo keeping a lot of babies around for promotion is not a new one but, it is a practice that most accredited zoos are trying to move away from currently. Even AZA's own procedures and memos have stated that fact. Why would any zoo wish to create more animals just to become surplus, or as is stated in the article, for feeding other animals? We both know that baby chicks are not "lion food" since it would take so many to feed a lion that you would have a chicken farm just devoted to that purpose.

The education argument that you put forward is not a valid one, since zoos usually want to educate about caring about animals and state that their purpose is conservation of species. Teaching chidren out of both sides of your mouth is not "education" but, more in the line of conditioning to a certain way of thinking. If you really want to educate children then why would you lie to them about what you are actually doing? If you truly believed that this practice was a necessary process then hiding it would not be the choice made. Children are not unintelligent or uninformed, as the child that asked the question proved to you.

Raising your own animals for the food chain may seem to be a necessary process, but that does not include some of the statements made by your zoo spokesman. The purpose that I see here is more one of drawing children in with baby animals than a food chain necessity. Since a lion or other large cat needs more nutrition than can be provided by baby chickens, they can only be supplemental to the animals diet. As I have helped to place lions and other large cats in sanctuaries around the country that have also become surplus animals, I don't see any of this as educational.

I would request from you that this practice of killing the young chickens be discontinued as well as the other animals in your children's petting zoo. Please take this into consideration in any of the future plans for the zoo. Teaching children that lions eat chickens is not teaching them correct information about a large cat in it's natural habitat by any stretch of the imagination anyway.

Please feel free to contact me on this subject if you wish.
Don Elroy
Tennessee Network for Animals
(865) 436-2861
Gatlinburg, TN

Dallas Zoo Response Follows:

Dear Don Elroy:

Thank you for your e-mail of 17 February, 2001 concerning the article you read in the recent Dallas Observer.

If you would like to discuss the article, feel free to contact me at this e-mail address.

A few clarifications of misconceptions and pieces of information which you may find useful:

- The Dallas Zoo buys and feeds out to its animals over 30,000 chickens annually. Most come in frozen. Some come in live, and are used to feed snakes and other animals which will not accept inanimate food items. Small, thawed chicks are especially important in the diet of predatory birds, such as hornbills, bustards, eagles, and so on.

- Lions in the wild feed on a variety of prey, of course: zebra, antelope, some birds. Ours are feed are variety of animal proteins - mainly from cows, some horse, some poultry, and other sources. I never told the reporter these chicks were the sole source of nutrition for our lions. We are not trying to teach anyone that lions eat chickens in their natural habitat.

- CO2 is used as a humane method of euthanizing the 12 chicks per week (624 per year) which you read about. One alternative is to feed these 12 out live, but we have decided against that option. If you know of a more humane option, I would be glad to have you share the information with me. I do not know the method used by our vendor to kill the remaining chickens which come in every year - I doubt it is more humane.

I also believe it is a more humane approach than that provided to the reporter by the "sanctuary." Think about it...that person thinks being punctured alive by the talons of an owl is a better alternative than going to sleep with CO2. It may be more natural, but it is not more humane. Neither are the fire ants, starvation, and parasites and other effects of overpopulation which would probably be experienced on the "sanctuary" property.

- We have always been open about this practice. The reporter wanted to create a story, and did so, using insinuation and inflammatory language.

This is a progressive, open organization. The "anonymous zookeeper" could have expressed concerns to any one of dozens of supervisors, curators, veterinarians, or me. The institution's Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) has been openly (not "quietly") discussing this issue for months to try to come up with an optimal approach - any of the zookeepers, PR people, scientists, managers, etc on the ACUC could have been approached. Debate, dialogue and diversity of opinions are valued and encouraged here.

- Education comes in several forms, including didactic (classroom) and experiential (riding a bike, touching a chick, smelling a flower).

Experiential is especially important for the little kids (personally, I think a child who connects with a live chick is more likely to become a future vegetarian than one who's only experience of chicken comes as processed, unrecognizable, plastic-wrapped food.)

Knowing about the food chain is important in laying the groundwork for later understanding of the concentration of pollutants and pesticides in animals and how this affects top level meat-eaters (like falcons, pelicans, humans, etc).

Please fell free to contact me for further discussion.

Thank you,

Chuck Siegel
Deputy Director for Animal Management
Dallas Zoo

Related Links:

United Poultry Concerns February 20, 2001

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(The Dallas Children’s Zoo – What To Do?)