Animals are not for my entertainment - but?
August 6, 2011 6:29 AM   Subscribe

I am faced with a decision that needs a resolution within the next 1/2 hour. I am against the use of animals for entertainment. Should I go to a country fair that as well as the usual offerings (rides, best pies and jams etc.), has an 'exotic animal show?' (which I could skip, but...)

My brother and my little nieces are headed out to the fair soon. It'd be so fun to be with my nieces and run around eating cotton candy and going on rides. But am I guilty by association even if I stay away from the exotic animal show while I'm at the fair? Should I skip the whole experience?
posted by analog to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go to the fair. Have fun with yr neices. Ride the rides.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:29 AM on August 6, 2011 [13 favorites]

Not going would be an empty gesture. How does anyone (besides the disappointed kids) know what your beef with the show *is*?

Go, see the show and decide for yourself if the animals are being mistreated. If they are, register your opinion with someone.
posted by gjc at 6:34 AM on August 6, 2011 [8 favorites]

I second just going. Depending on how old your nieces are, they may not understand why you don't want to go. Just skip the exotic animals and be sure to eat some appalling deep-fried something.
posted by jeoc at 6:34 AM on August 6, 2011

I think you should go. You might be the most entertaining thing those animals see all day.
posted by paulsc at 6:36 AM on August 6, 2011

Chiming in: go. See if the animals are well cared for (and if they might actually be serving an educational purpose).
posted by likeso at 6:37 AM on August 6, 2011

If your nieces are old enough use this as a teachable moment.
posted by mareli at 6:37 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Or, depending on how old the nieces are, use it as an educational moment for them - it's great to see interesting new animals, but what do you think about them living in little cages and traveling on trains? do you think they miss their families? do you think they like the weather here? They don't need to be forced into agreeing with you but at some point they should also think about these issues.
posted by whatzit at 6:37 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm won't take my 8 year old to the circus, because I am aware of what it takes to "train" an elephant. So I totally understand your concerns. But since they are already going, and this show is just one avoidable aspect of the experience, I would go.
posted by jeoc at 6:38 AM on August 6, 2011

Wait, what does "show" mean? If they are performing, then I second mareli, whatzit and jeoc.
posted by likeso at 6:42 AM on August 6, 2011

Go and see if the animals are being treated well. If not, don't be quiet about it. Tell the nieces "I don't like it when living things aren't treated respectfully. Let's ride the ferris wheel again instead."

PS--There is only one circus I will go to (Circus Flora) for this very reason. All of their animals (they only have small animals and a few horses) look healthier and happier than I do.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2011

Here's how I'd consider it... Do you refuse to enter a movie theater because one of the movies playing there is one that you find offensive in some way? Entering a place where there are multiple experiences does not signify that you sign on for everything occurring there.

If, on the other hand, everything happening at the fair (or movie theater or wherever) has a common theme or intent that you find offensive, then that might be worth avoiding. Like if it's the County Fun Animal Torture Fair, yeah stay way from that one.
posted by mark7570 at 6:55 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, you are guilty by association. But everyone is to some extent. If you're a vegan, can you go to a non-vegan restaurant (i.e. almost any restaurant)? You're still supporting the restaurant. Can you buy clothing from a store that makes any clothes made from animal products (which is almost all of them)? I have no interest in taking potshots at your concerns; I've been an ethical vegetarian for 20 years. But your dilemma isn't that different from things you do every day.

By the way, to extend mark7570's movie theater example, if we're being totally consistent, we should never go to the movie theatre. They use film made from gelatin, which is made from animals. So, either enjoy your movie-free life, or admit that you can't be pure.

And again, I want to be totally clear this is not an "argument against" considering cruelty to animals while making your consumption choices. I have nothing but contempt for those who try to argue that since you can't do everything with perfect purity, you shouldn't have any concern for animals and should be totally amoral and hedonistic. "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
posted by John Cohen at 7:04 AM on August 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone. I don't know if the 'show' involves performance or a safari-type person holding an iguana and advising everyone to love and protect it. Nieces are only 3 years and 17 months - not sure if helping them understand my dilemma would be too scary for them or if I should try. In any case gjc's comment re: not going being an empty gesture hit home with me. John Cohen is also right that I actually struggle with this every day.
Decision: I am going to go, and make my gesture worth something rather than retreating.
posted by analog at 7:25 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm having trouble understanding the scenario - it sounds like the exotic animal show is just part of the fair. SO you don't have to attend that, do you? Skip it, and spend time instead talking to the 4H kids who evince nothing but attentive concern for their animals. At 3 and 17 months, the kids are absolutely not going to be able to understand an ethical conversation about performing animals.
posted by Miko at 7:40 AM on August 6, 2011 [8 favorites]

[Can you update this thread at the end of the day to let us know how it went? Also, yeah, in the grand scheme of things, hanging out with your brother and nieces is worth a lot more than an empty protest. Have fun!]
posted by bluedaisy at 9:11 AM on August 6, 2011

Go to the fair. Our Michigan on the Detroit side of Eight Mile Road, right on several major bus routes, so there were always tons of young city kids in attendance who'd only seen such animals on TV. It always made me smile to see their reaction when they saw the horses and cows and baby chicks, and while petting the sheep and feeding the ducks. I wasn't a big fan of the Kowalski Pig Races, but I (and the kids in attendance) loved looking at the baby piglets in the pen with their mom - "How can they be so tiny when their mama is so big?" was a constant question from the youngsters. Growing up I had an aunt who lived on a farm, so I saw cows and goats plenty of times, but I loooved seeing all the horses at the State Fair. And hot dogs, burgers and french fries somehow always taste better when eaten at the Fair. Please don't miss out on what will no doubt be a day of fun your nieces will talk about for months afterward.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:30 AM on August 6, 2011

I once met a chimpanzee at a tech conference. My first reaction was to wonder if the animal was properly cared for and I was assured he was treated like family. Then it hugged me. Since they are so ungodly strong it was a little unnerving, but it was my birthday and I got hugged by a chimpanzee.
If it's a small fair, the exotic animals could be cared for well. Exotic animal show sounds vague. It could just be an uppity llama and a couple of parrots or a large cat or elephant that is very unhappy. You might as well investigate what the case may be.
posted by provoliminal at 10:50 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Preface: I would totally go to the fair and enjoy the time with the family but I'd skip the animal show.

I think there may be a disconnect happening for a lot of people in this thread. Even if the animals are fantastically well cared for... is it right that they are kept for entertainment purposes? I'll not get on my soapbox about this because the question the OP sought an answer for has been addressed but I think this is the question at the heart of the OP's original concern.

This comment brought to you by an animal-loving lapsed vegan who misses the hell out of petting stingrays at the local aquarium.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:59 AM on August 6, 2011

I used to boycott the aquarium because I was worried about mistreatment. Then I became a member and they had to take my complaints more seriously. You might be able to find a way to make your point and still enjoy the parts you agree with.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:37 PM on August 6, 2011

Put the happiness of the children ahead of your own feelings, the animals at the fair won't care whether you're there or not, but the kids will.
posted by joannemullen at 12:21 AM on August 7, 2011

Please don't explain too much to the kids. The 17 month old will not understand and the three year old will have trouble. And both may end up with issues about what you've said, above and beyond anything you could predict. I struggle with a similar issue with my family and the kid is not the one to talk to.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:51 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I was asked to report back on how things went. Well, I'm afraid I have anti-climactic news. I got held up in traffic while driving out to the fair (plus I live about 45 minutes from my brother in the first place). Just as I got close to the fair, my brother called me to report that there had been a toddler meltdown on the fairgrounds and the outing had therefore ended early. So no fair for me. Dilemma postponed.

For clarification, as someone brought it up - yes, even if they were treated like gold, I'd be bothered by the use of animals for/in entertainment. But I am aware that even the adoption and care of my cat somehow flies in the face of this belief, so I recognize that it's a nuanced and complicated deal.
posted by analog at 2:49 PM on August 7, 2011

I know it's a bit late to respond, but I was busy this weekend, and this is near a topic which is dear to my heart.

I do outreach with my local herpetological society-- we would be the safari-type people with the iguanas, though I myself prefer snakes. Technically, these guys are exotic animals, but they're also our pets. We run a rescue, and I have gotten a number of my personal snakes that way, as well as fostering others while we find them homes. (Yes, there are indeed abused and neglected reptiles.) I'm not sure whether you are against the idea of pets in general, despite having a cat, but if that's not the case, perhaps it will mean something when I assure you that these guys are well cared for.

Our outreaches can definitely be considered entertainment-- I certainly find them entertaining. But that's not the sole, or most significant, reason we do it. We do outreaches to let people know our organization exists, because the better-known we are the more likely someone is to hear of us when they decide their pet is disposable rather than starving the poor thing slowly. (As cold-blooded animals, reptiles starve *very* slowly.) But even more, we do it in order to educate people. One of my favourite things in the world is to see the terror drain out of an ophidiophobe as they realize that snakes are not slimy, they're not evil, they're not all venomous. They are, in fact, perfectly innocent animals, just as much deserving of respect as any other. And people don't realize that. People swerve to run over snakes. They kill them out of fear, they kill them for fun. To me, that's utterly horrifying. And every time we teach a small child not to hate a whole class of organisms for no real reason at all, every time an older adult starts crying with relief because she touched a snake for the first time after decades of phobia, I cannot help but feel that I and my exotic animals are doing some genuine good. If I save a tiny garter snake that somebody fails to decapitate with a shovel because of meeting my animals, I can only consider that a good thing.

I am dubious about a lot of the things people do to animals. A lot of them make my blood boil. But bear in mind that it's not necessarily all bad. I suspect your methods differ from my own with regard to animal protection, but I deeply respect and approve of your concern. And the show at your fair might well have been everything you feared-- that's probably more likely than something like my herp society showing up. Anyway, as I said, thank you for caring. Though from a very different angle, this stuff is a large portion of my life right now. It's nice to see someone thinking about these matters.
posted by Because at 10:45 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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