United Poultry Concerns December 6, 2001
The Difference Between the
Dallas Zoo and McDonald's

By Karen Davis, PhD

Many people were surprised and outraged to learn 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 each week. To justify itself the zoo told the Dallas Observer ("Chick Fillet," by Peter Calvin, February 15) that most parents are no more truthful to their children about the animals the children eat than the zoo is truthful about the animals the children pet. In both cases, the animals are killed for "someone's" food, be it a captive tot or a captive tiger, so what's the issue?

Parents encourage their children to cuddle and love the zoo's chicks. They buy their children Easter chick toys at places like K-Mart, and then the family goes to KFC or McDonald's for a grilled chicken sandwich or a fried chicken's leg. The zoo is of the essence of traditions such as American slavery and 4-H. In one, white children were taught to love the "mammies" who raised them and then sever themselves from black people morally and emotionally. In the other, children are encouraged to nurture and love animals destined for slaughter.

The zoo claims 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 the truth 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 encouraging or forcing children to eat animals, thereby increasing their risk of food poisoning, arthritis, obesity, diabetes and other diet-related maladies-all this adds up to a grand case of both child abuse and animal abuse, just like what the zoo is doing. Only the scale of abuse is much greater and more deeply hypocritical.

In response to the criticism of its children's zoo practice, zoo officials point out that "the Dallas Zoo purchases and feeds out over 30,000 chickens per year to feed the other animals in its collection" (email to Karen Davis and others, February 26). Compare this vast and revolting number to the over 30 million chickens being killed every single day to feed the human animals in the USA's collection. The zoo throws a number of chicks in the trash each week-well, the U.S. egg industry throws over a quarter of a billion chicks in the trash every year so people can have eggs. The zoo says most of the children's zoo chicks are "humanely" gassed in CO2 chambers. Despite its actual cruelty, including suffocation, the gassing of poultry is increasingly being promoted as a "humane" alternative to the pre-slaughter electric water bath paralysis to which the majority of fully conscious chickens, turkeys, and ducks are subjected in slaughterhouses every day in the United States. They, too, are young birds who were deprived of their abused parents, just like the chicks at the zoo.

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. As long as people support slaughterhouses, and the eating of animals and animal products is upheld regardless of the cruelty and health risks, zoos can invoke society's hypocrisy to justify theirs own cruelty. It is no justification, but as the situation shows, for the umpteenth time, the view of animals as consumables is as much of a root of evil as the love of money is.

This article appeared in the May-June edition of Veg-News, p. 10. www.vegnews.com

Karen Davis is the founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of chickens and other domestic fowl. She is the author of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry. For more information write to United Poultry Concerns, PO Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405, or visit our Web site at www.upc-online.org.

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

(The Difference Between the Dallas Zoo and McDonald's)

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