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Da Zoo! Is It Vegan?


Every once in a while I receive an email asking me how I feel about the zoo, you know, being vegan and all. Well, I'm not sure how a *vegan* is *supposed* to feel about the zoo, but personally, I think zoos are not only fantastic, but also, incredibly beneficial. I've always been a huge animal lover, always. I originally choose to make a jump into vegetarianism (at the age of 12-14) because of my sympathy and love for animals. And yeah, I'll admit, that's not really the reason I stay vegan now... I stay on this path more for health and environmental reasons, but that original jump and my concern for animals still remains. Learning about these animals and their so different, but important lives shaped so much of who I am today. Growing up I spent hours reading books about animals... fictional novels, educational collectable booklets (anyone remember zoo books?), or any other reading material I could find. And while I think reading is so incredibly important, nothing will compare to seeing an eight ton elephant standing only a few feet in front of you. Sadly, most of us will never see these animals in their natural habitat, but a zoo? It's the next best thing. Sometimes it can be difficult to appreciate and care for an idea or image... but a tangible being, that is right in front of you? That's when a connection and understanding can really be made.  I was once told I wasn't vegan because I go to the zoo. And to that I answered: no one is 100% vegan and I'm not expecting to be. I think it would be near impossible, unless you're living off the grid.  I mean, am I expected not to sit on my friends couch, because it's leather? Or in my friend's car, because they my have leather seats? Not trim back trees or bushes in my yard because they may be a temporary home for a small animal? Not wash my dog because I'm going to kill fleas? Even sugar, that thing that we all consume almost on a daily basis? Not vegan (it's filtered through animal bone-char). It's crazy when we look around us, and realize how involved we are in the lives of so many other entities... and how they are involved in ours. This (sometimes difficult) coexisting we do, it's not going to change, but if we look at the bigger pictures and are making every conscious effort to not only care for, but learn more about every living thing around us, then what we're doing is a-okay.  Maybe some vegans don't believe in zoos, maybe most don't, I honestly have no idea, but I truly believe that Marlowe's interest, love, and compassion for animals will only be enhanced by our zoo trips. 

We visit our local zoo about three times a week. It is our park. It is our playground. And it is our learning tool. It is a our nice, quiet, shaded, happy place after daycare. But! About two weeks ago we made a bigger trip down to the Miami zoo (since Marlowe had been asking almost daily for elephants and giraffes). She loved every single second. And spent the rest of the day pulling leaves from trees saying "I feed riraffes!""riraffes kiss me!" I can't wait to take her back.

If you'd like to see more pictures from our bigger zoo trip... click the link, they'll be after the cut :)





25 comments:

  1. " I was once told I wasn't vegan because I go to the zoo." That's crazy!!! I really hope no one says that to you anymore :/

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  2. Oh man I am OBSESSED with zoos. Have been since I was a little girl and my dad took my brother and me to the National Zoo on the weekend so my mom could write her thesis for grad school. It's well-known how much I love them. My mom even took me on a business trip to San Diego three years ago just so I could go to the zoo with her (the zoo was partially sponsoring the trip! They held a large nighttime gala and we got to be the with the animals after hours) Of course in college I got to go to the real thing--South Africa. I totally get your love of zoos.
    I think most people assume the animosity towards zoos is that they originally started as places with animals in small cages for visitors to gawk at. But modern zoos are much more about conservation than gawking. It's more of a learning experience now. Plus many species can't survive without the zoo. My two cents on the subject.

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  3. I worry about this myself sometimes. I even emailed PETA once to ask about the Toronto zoo. Generally they don't support the zoo. But, I took the kids once. I think you have to look at the quality of the zoo. A roadside zoo with a few wild cats might not be the best place to support. It's a tough one for sure!

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    1. I love it how you emailed PETA! I thought I was the only person that was concerned enough to consider doing this for infor or advice! :)

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  4. Being vegan, the zoo is also something I have thought about over the years. After I read Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey and her description of the devastating effects for multiple generations zoos had after they would come in and take the gorillas for their zoos, I began to think more about it. I suppose I finally concluded that being human doesn't give me some sort of inherent right to see these animals, and I am perfectly fine with living my life without "getting up close" if it means they can remain undisturbed in their natural habitat. I am happy with learning about them from afar. I support animal sanctuaries, but don't believe in using animals for entertainment purposes. When you get down to it, the zoo is there to make money, and when it becomes about money, the best interest of the animal gets pushed aside.

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    1. Yes, I totally agree. Whenever I've taken my three kids to the zoo (about twice), I've felt that incredible weight of guilt - sickly, heavy, uneasy lament.

      I would rather them understand that there are people whose life's work includes observing and/or protecting animals (wildlife biologists, park rangers, field scientists, etc), and that it is not a human "right" to enclose other species, thereby removing them from a natural, independent existence.

      Zoos just make me so, so sad, in my gut. I don't want to shame other people into boycotting them (not yet, anyhow), because I haven't done a lot of intellectualizing about it. But it sure is an entitlement that does other beings harm, and it's not an expense I'm going to splurge on for my family. The botanical gardens and loads of camping trips, national geo subscriptions and the like, will have to do.

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    2. Many of the animals in "today's" zoos were born in captivity, they would not survive life outside of a zoo.

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  5. Glad you posted this. I'm not vegan, but we love the zoo and I think it's a wonderful experience for kids!

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  6. Interesting. I am not a Vegan, but I hate the zoo. It seems cruel to pen animals for the enjoyment of humanity. Children can be taught in a variety of ways. There are more ways to explore the world without leaving your desk than you can even imagine. Interactive models that don't require animals to be away from their natural environments for the benefit of humanity. Scientists should go study them in their natural habitats, or on reserves that are not open to the gawking public. If you want to see a giraffe, go to Africa. Humans are not holders of the god given right to take whatever they want with no consequence. Yes, it's nice that your daughter can go see exotic animals that should be wild. But it's a one way benefit - the giraffe is not benefiting from her adorable presence.
    It definitely seems at odd with a Vegan outlook.

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  7. You guys are brave. I would have been a little nervous being that close to a Giraffe! Eeeekkk... :) These zoo trips look like a lot of for both of you! Great pictures. I am vegan and I have never given the Zoo any thought before this. Mostly, because I live two or more hours away from one. Over this past summer we went to a animal sanctuary in Maine. Probably the closest thing to a zoo we will have access to till the warmer months come back. That was such a great experience for our family! Thanks for sharing.

    P.S- Dont let anyone tell you what you are, or are not. That is sooo rude of them! xoxo ♥

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  8. Kathy kind of put my exact thoughts on paper. I am also vegan and have struggled with the zoo concept for a long time. I live in Columbus, Ohio which has the "best" zoo in the country and is run by Jack Hanna, who does A LOT of conservation work. However, it does always come down to making money. I don't know. It is definitely a tough call. BUT I would never say you weren't a vegan or a bad vegan because you go to the zoo. It is up to each individual person and you rock (as a person and a vegan), so don't listen to mean people :)

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  9. Being a vegan, I would never take my child to the zoo. I love animals as much as you do and I want my baby to love them too. We love being in nature and if we'd meet any wild animals it would me awesome. But not in a zoo, it doesn't seem normal to me. Totally agree with you about the 100% vegan thing. Everyone makes choices and I think you're doing fine!

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  10. My family and I have always loved the zoo. Not vegan, but I do care a lot about animals. I have struggled with the small cages at some zoos, but the more educated I have gotten from the zookeepers, I have come to see how much most love and respect and care for the animals. My zoo is involved in a lot of conservation programs and research that really benefit a variety of species. The comments here about the zoo being all about making money seem a bit narrow-minded. Of course the zoo needs to make money! Those animals need A LOT of specified care! Money you spend at the zoo goes to keeping the zoo running, updating animal living spaces, funding educational and environmental projects. Our zoo in Houston lets us bring our own food and drinks, it's not like other entertainment venues that force you to buy their stuff. We have a membership and go all the time with our own arsenal of snacks. But their food is really, really good and we always feel good spending money there. Though it may not be perfect, I definitely support the zoo! Watching my daughter feed a giraffe? Amazing! And I definately believe she will grow up respecting animals as much ad I do from having experienced them in person.

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  11. Not a vegan, not a mom, but my two cents: it really depends on the zoo in question. After reading the comments, I can COMPLETELY understand how some zoo's make you feel guilty about seeing the animals in pens and not out in the wild. But at the same time, there are some zoo's I've been to that have beautiful exhibits that emphasize keeping the animals as happy and entertained as possible, while letting parents/kids experience them in at least a semi-natural way. Best zoo I've been to: believe it or not, Milwaukee, WI has a great zoo. Worst zoo: sadly, the London zoo had portions where I felt the animals purely were not well cared for. Extremely disappointing at times.
    Anyway, I loved that you thought to post on this! Adorable pictures as well. :]
    -Z

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  12. The only way zoos can get better is if people go and support them (with money), without funding zoos cannot exist (just like anything else) and with funding they can be awesome. If you think a zoo is terrible then go there and pay money so it can get better. My boyfriend is a zoologist (actually an aquarist, he works at an aquarium) and we are serious zoo supporters.

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    1. Love this comment! A family friend was a zoologist in our area before moving out of state and I never met anyone who cared more about the well-being of animals. Many of the animals who came to the zoo were injured in nature and nursed back to health by loving professionals who did care about them and needed funding to help feed and care for them properly!

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    2. Which zoo do you typically go to? Dreher Park? We're in Coral Springs so it's a drive, but I've been dying to take my toddler especially when the weather is nicer. I've lived in South Florida my whole life and have never been to the Miami zoo! The giraffes look so super sweet!

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  13. What a great outing with your little girl. My daughter is almost one and I need to find more things to entertain her with that she could learn from.

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  14. What a great outing with your little girl. My daughter is almost one and I need to find more things to entertain her with that she could learn from.

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  15. I think it also bears to mention that not all zoos are created equal. I have lived in Florida most of my life (currently reside in miami), so I grew up with free-range zoos: large expanses of lands that the animals are free to roam around in. Sure there are also smaller habitats they might sleep in, but in general to me its no different that having a pet rabbit or bird, an animal taken out of it's natural habitat and raised for human enjoyment(which I suppose could also open a can of worms... this is assuming you treat your pet responsibly.) I sometimes feel guilty that my rabbit is in her cage when I am not home to supervise or take her outside for exercise, but I also know that she and i have a great bond, and she gets the benefit of guaranteed food and shelter (most domestic pets live significantly longer than their wild counterparts). Her life is certainly different than if she had lived away from humans, but I don't think it would be qualitatively better.

    However, a few years ago I was dating a guy who lives in Wisconsin and we visited the zoo in Milwaukee; I was horrified. Animals in small tight confines, cement wall cages with glass for visitors to look at. Don't get me wrong- I understand that city gets crazy cold and it's for the animal's protection, but it did disturb me on a lot of levels. This truly felt like imprisonment.

    I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian, but to me this topic reminds me of a post you did about the levels of your vegetarianism. Most of my friends who don't eat meat do so because they oppose the way animals are bred, slaughtered and mass distributed, more than the actual act of eating meat. One of those friends actually owns her own farm now and will butcher her own meat. This, to her, is different because she knows that the animals are treated well and humanely. (Correct me if Im wrong Drea, but i remember you making a comparable comment in a post.)

    My point is this: not all zoos are created equal. There are definitely some that focus on conversation efforts while others are focused only on making a profit. I think this is a choice each individual person has to make for him or herself.

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  16. I'm really glad you posted this. Ive been wondering for a while now what your stance was on this subject, but i didnt want to come off as rude by asking. My daughter is Marlowe's age and we've been to the zoo twice now (in Salt Lake City) and i was saddened both times. Shortly after I started dating and animal activist, and obviously his views only solidified my opinion. However, I think the zoo can be a wonderful learning place, and its a magical feeling for children.

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  17. Great post--this is really a lot of how I feel about zoos as a vegetarian (and wannabe vegan). Some zoos make me sad and feel bad for being in because you can see that the animals are unhappy, but there is nothing more inspiring of animal-love than a *good* zoo where you can see the animals are thriving in natural space, and I know access to these animals is educating my children, fostering their interest, and hopefully inspiring compassion.

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  18. So glad you posted this. My husband and I have been struggling about whether or not we bring our daughter to the zoo. Thanks again for posting your thoughts - I love it!

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  19. Not all zoos are created equal. I used to support the zoo where I live because the animals seem to be well-treated, and I know someone who is a volunteer within. However, they recently splurged on some expensive TVs and random sculptures that are completely unnecessary. The money would have been better spent on the animals. For this reason, I no longer support this zoo.

    While I do not consume sugar (agave nectar, ftw!) I definitely agree with the 100 percent concept. Movie reels contain gelatin. Book bindings contain glue. With every breath we take, we inhale and sometimes kill living organisms.

    The only people who complain about others not being vegan are vegans in denial and non-vegans who feel so guilty about their choices that they want to make other people feel guilty as well. Ultimately, the only people who have room to talk are those who are ONE HUNDRED PERCENT self-sustainable, and don't pay taxes. After all, a portion of our tax money funds government animal testing.

    Keep doing what you do! Every little thing makes a difference!

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    1. It's true, I've been meaning to post a update about how not all zoos are the same. I'm not incredibly familiar with zoos in colder climates... but this zoo near us is very well designed with lots of open space for the animals... and the miami zoo is even more open. And, our local zoo I also found out is non profit, so the people saying that zoo's are built solely for money purposes... well, maybe they should look more into it.
      Thanks for the comment, I should just have you write a post for me :)

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