Thursday, July 9, 2009

Petting Zoo Rant

I Hate Confrontation. I really do. So it was really hard for me to write a letter to the director of my son's camp, explaining why I'm keeping him home from camp. Tomorrow, there will be a petting zoo. I'd like to share my letter with you. What do you think?

July 9, 2009

Dear ____,

I’m writing to compliment you and your staff on an exceptionally well-run camp; Benjamin is having an amazing time. He loves his counselors and other children, and tells me excitedly about all the projects and activities he partakes in. ____ and ____ are such great leaders; my husband and I have been very impressed with everything.

I’m also writing because I wanted to express why I’m keeping Ben home tomorrow. There will be a petting zoo, and I do not want him exposed to it. Please allow me to explain. As a vegetarian, Ben has an acute understanding that people eat animals, and that they first must be killed. If he sees and touches those animals, and then sees kids eating sandwiches made from the same animals they just touched and loved, it will be an emotional experience for him, to say the least.

Animals used for petting zoos live lives of confinement and fear, and are repeatedly poked and prodded by strangers. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. Farm animals are not dogs; they don’t run and play with children.

We are teaching Ben that it is our responsibility to show animals the respect they deserve. Since exploitation may be too advanced a concept for Ben, I would rather expose him to things like zoos and circuses later, when he is able to critically analyze his own feelings about them.

I am also concerned about the health risks of contact with farm animals. According to the Humane Society:

“In December 2002, Pennsylvania passed a bill requiring petting zoos and other animal exhibitions to provide hand-washing facilities and to post information about the more than 75 diseases humans can contract from contact with animals. The impetus for the bill was a an outbreak of E. coli in 2000 among visitors, most of them children, to a Montgomery County petting zoo. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 55 cases of E. coli were confirmed, and 16 people were hospitalized. One child, a four-year-old girl, required a kidney transplant from her father.

“According to the CDC, each year an estimated 73,000 people become ill and 61 people die from the potentially life-threatening bacteria, E. coli O157:H7. Although many cases are due to contaminated food and water, transmission of E. coli from animals to people is a growing concern. Several recent outbreaks at petting zoos across the country have prompted the CDC to issue federal safety guidelines to animal attractions that allow human-animal contact.”

For the health of our children and to make a statement respecting fellow sentient beings, I hope you will reconsider using petting zoos in future years.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Dina Aronson


Merri M said...

Good job! It is hard to confront people when your views are in the minority but hopefully this will spark a change in the summer camp. Well done!

Dina said...

Thanks Merri. I appreciate your support! Followup -- I JUST got a call from the camp director thanking me for my letter and expressing her understanding. She even said she will reconsider using petting zoos in the future. She also told me that I might want to know that during "dinosaur week" they will have a reptile expert as a guest, and he'll be bringing reptiles. I'll have to think about that one! It feels good to be heard, and hopefully this will invoke awareness and change...

Paulina said...

Wow, that was a very well written letter. I couldn't have said it better myself. I hope they respond positively!

KristieS said...

Very good! More of us need to take the time to write letters like this. How nice that the director was receptive to you. Too often this isn't the case (which is probably why most of us don't speak up more often!)

dreaminitvegan said...

Good for you. I'm not very good with confronting people either. I hope the campe director takes to heart what you wrote.