Δευτέρα, 11 Νοεμβρίου 2013

The Pet Food Industry

 Dogs and cats are carnivores, and do best on a meat-based diet. The protein used in pet food comes from a variety of sources. When cattle, swine, chickens, lambs, or other animals are slaughtered, lean muscle tissue is trimmed away from the carcass for human consumption, along with the few organs that people like to eat, such as tongues and tripe. However, about 50% of every food animal does not get used in human foods. Whatever remains of the carcass - heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments, fat trimmings, unborn babies, and other parts not generally consumed by humans - is used in pet food, animal feed, fertilizer, industrial lubricants, soap, rubber, and other products. These "other parts" are known as "by-products".  

By-products are used in feed for poultry and livestock as well as in pet food. The nutritional quality of by-products, meals, and digests can vary from batch to batch. James Morris and Quinton Rogers, of the University of California at Davis Veterinary School, assert that, "pet food ingredients are generally by-products of the meat, poultry and fishing industries, with the potential for a wide variation in nutrient composition. Claims of nutritional adequacy of pet foods based on the current Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient allowances do not give assurances of nutritional adequacy and will not until ingredients are analyzed and bioavailability values are incorporated".

Meat meals, poultry meals, by-product meals, and meat-and-bone meal are common ingredients in dry pet foods. The term "meal" means that these materials are not used fresh, but have been rendered. What is rendering? As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, to render is "to process as for industrial use: to render livestock carcasses and to extract oil from fat, blubber, etc., by melting". In other words, raw materials are dumped into large vat and boiled for several hours. Rendering separates fat, removes water, and kills bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms. However, the high temperatures used (270°F/130°C) can alter or destroy natural enzymes and proteins found in the raw ingredients.

The Food Pets Die for, a groundbreaking book released in 1997, was probably the first major publication to openly mention the cannibalistic nature of commercial pet foods. In it, author Ann Martin chronicled her detailed efforts to discover what it was that was in pet food that was making so many animals sick. Then, because of persistent rumors that rendered by-products contain dead dogs and cats, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a study looking for sodium pentobarbital, the drug most often used to kill companion animals in shelters, in pet foods. They found it. In 2001, Animal Ark reported on a study conducted by the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), which is a division of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The study tested pet foods for the presence of Sodium Pentobarbital. Of the foods tested from which a definitive result could be determined, 53% contained this "euthanasia solution". At the time, apologists for the pet food industry insisted that euthanasia solution could be getting into pet food from other sources, like farm animals, which are sometimes euthanized with Sodium Pentobarbital. This hypothesis, however, did not really stand up to scrutiny in the eyes of many. Dr. Linda Wolf, a Minnesota-based veterinary consultant, for example, pointed out that the original study concluded that the presence of the unwanted drug correlated to pet foods that contained unnamed animal sources for their ingredients. "If farm animals were the likely source of Sodium Pentobarbital, you would probably find it in foods that were made exclusively from farm animal sources, like beef and chicken", Wolf said. "But that is not the case. The study found the drug more commonly in products that used 'generic' sounding animal products, like 'animal fat', 'animal tallow', or 'meat and bone meal'". Clearly, pet food companies looking for super-cheap "meat" sources would be hesitant to add Fluffy or Fido to the ingredients lists of their products. This resulted in a variety of strange-sounding ingredients appearing on pet food labels, like, for example, "spray-dried animal digest". Ingredients that were most commonly associated with the presence of pentobarbital were meat-and-bone-meal and animal fat. However, they also used very sensitive tests to look for canine and feline DNA, which were not found. 

Industry insiders admit that rendered pets and roadkill were used in pet food some years ago. Although there are still no laws or regulations against it, the practice is uncommon today, and pet food companies universally deny that their products contain any such materials. However, so-called "4D" animals (dead, dying, diseased, disabled) were only recently banned for human consumption and are still legitimate ingredients for pet food.

A recently uncovered report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on rendering plants is raising eyebrows about what is finding its way into commercial pet food. To those who have studied the pet food industry, the report provides no new information. The statement getting the most attention reads quite simply: "Meat rendering plants process animal by-product materials for the production of tallow, grease, and high-protein meat and bone meal. Plants that operate in conjunction with animal slaughterhouses or poultry processing plants are called integrated rendering plants. Independent plants obtain animal by-product materials, including grease, blood, feathers, offal, and entire animal carcasses, from the following sources: butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches, feedlots, and animal shelters". Combine this new EPA report with the knowledge that pet food manufacturers are the largest purchasers of these same rendered products, and, well, there is obvious reason for pet owners to be concerned with whether they are, in fact, feeding Fido to Fido. It is a concern that has been gaining attention since the mid 1990's.

More recently another book has shed light on some other dark spots of the pet food industry: Not Fit For a Dog, by Dr Michael Fox, Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins and Dr Marion Smart uncovered issues relating to the quality of other ingredients as well, including the use of foods considered "unfit for consumption". Hodgkins, it is worth noting, is a veterinarian who formerly worked in the nutrition department of Hill’s Pet Food Manufacturing, the makers of so-called "Science Diet". Fox is a world-famous veterinarian and writer of the syndicated "Animal Doctor" column. None of the authors have much good to say about the pet food industry as a whole, or Hodgkin's former employer in specific. In the wake of all of these other reports and publishings this new simple statement from the EPA does not seem like big news. It probably isn't, unless you are one of the people who bought into the glossy advertising and pretty labels put out by major pet food manufacturers. Each year, animal shelters in the USA destroy about 4 million dogs and cats. If each of those pets weighs on average 20 pounds (probably a conservative estimate) that equates to around 80 million pounds per year of very cheap "meat" source. It is sort of ironic that these same pet food companies then turn around and sponsor the animal shelters that may be the source of their "meat". 

On the other end of the pet food spectrum is a growing list suppliers of holistic or organic foods, as well as consumers that are learning to make their own pet foods. Many well informed dog and cat lovers know that pet food companies use low quality species inappropriate ingredients to make helthy profits. They are also profiting by developing special diets to diseases caused by poor quality precessed food. They know how valuable the connection with veterinarians could be and that is why these diets are offered exclusively to vets (who they also educate). One rarely sees a veterinary conference that is not be sponsored by either a drug or processed pet food company. It's not surprising that there is a symbiotic relationship between veterinarians and the pet industry, particularly when it comes to the pet medical community's perspective on pet food and general animal nutrition. Pet retailers - particularly those that deal in pet food - are often faced with the daunting task of attempting to suggest pet foods and diet options that run counter to what their customers' vets advise. Conversely, there are also conscientious, highly knowledgeable, courageous veterinarians who strongly oppose what's going on in the pet food industry, and have no compunction about speaking their minds.

I would like to ask my fellow vets, small animal veterinarians (pet's veterinarians) something that I always wondered about: Do you HONESTLY believe everything you say to your customers about commercial food? Even if the home made food is properly cooked, and having followed properly the cooking instructions, you would consider it wrong? I am not referred to cases where diseased animals are under therapeutic clinical diets. I am referring to absolutely healthy animals that are consistent in preventive health check of their dog or cat, and totally cooperative with the vet. I know that not every pet guardian has the best choice for their pets as the home made food costs both time and money, but if somebody is able to do so, why do you say no? Do you believe that it is so much difficult to implement proper home made nutrition in a pet than in a toddler? And if not why don't we choose to bring up our children only on commercial food? Have you ever heard about the various scandals involving commercial food? Do you have the impression that the protein used by commercial companies is the same pure fresh meat you find at your local butcher? Does the fact that factory farming exists because meat production is not sufficient to feed even human population (let alone growing population of pets) mean something to you? Have you taken in to consideration the fact that industries viability results from minimizing the cost and maximizing their profits? Have you ever heard about the recycling of animal corpses - deceased animals from various causes (not slaughtered farming animals) including different animal species like dogs and cats used as pet food? 

Relative links:
- Why Are Jerky Treats Making Pets Sick?- usatoday.com 
- www.econews.gr (Οκτώβριος 2013): Περίπου 600 σκυλιά και γάτες πέθαναν στις ΗΠΑ από το 2007 λόγω δηλητηριασμένων ζωοτροφών, ενώ άλλα 3.600 αρρώστησαν, όπως ανακοίνωσε ο Αμερικανικός Οργανισμός Τροφίμων και Φαρμάκων (FDA). Τα ζώα άρχισαν να πεθαίνουν και να αρρωσταίνουν σχεδόν μαζικά από τον Ιανουάριο, διάστημα κατά το οποίοι καταγράφηκαν πάνω από 3.200 περιστατικά δηλητηρίασης και 500 θάνατοι γατών και σκύλων, πιθανότατα λόγω κατανάλωσης ζωοτροφών με κοτόπουλο, πάπια, πατάτα και φρούτα, πολλές εκ των οποίων εισάγονται στις ΗΠΑ από την Κίνα. Ο FDA συνεχίζει την έρευνα, καθώς όπως δηλώνει δεν έχει εξακριβώσει με βεβαιότητα τα αίτια των θανάτων. Παράλληλα ζητά από τους πολίτες να συνδράμουν με πληροφορίες στην έρευνα.

Vet waiting room

It's not surprising that there is a symbiotic relationship between veterinarians and the pet industry. One rarely sees a veterinary conference that is not be sponsored by either a drug or processed pet food company. And many veterinary clinics make as much as 1/3 of their income from pet food so that the processed food sales may be essential to a veterinary practice survival.

Did you know that many of the commercial pet foods on the market are owned by large corporations? Yeah, so what? Well, think about the bottom line for these shareholders. What do you think is more important to the board of directors for these companies – making a profit, or making reputable products that encourage health? If you said profit, you are RIGHT. So how does one cut costs and increase profits? By reducing the quality of the ingredients, outsourcing to cheap factories, and by automation of the process to ensure that food is produced quickly, and shipped out to retailers across the U.S. So Who Controls What? 

 The Five Biggest Pet Food Corporations: 
1) Mars (wikipedia) Nutro, Royal Canin, Pedigree, Medi-Cal
2) Neste SA (wikipedia) Purina
3) Colgate Palmolive (Hills) Hills Pet Products (Science Diet)
4) Procter & Gamble Co. Iams, Eukanuba, Natura Pet Products: Karma, Innova, Evo, California Natural, Mother Nature, and Healthwise
5) Del Monte Foods Co. Natures Recipe, Pounce, Meow Mix, Kibbles & Bits, 9 Lives, Jerky Treats, Milk Bone
Current annual spending: Close to $18 billion. 
Are you surprised? Science Diet (the “most reputable” commercial diet, promoted in veterinary clinics across the nation) is owned and produced by Colgate Palmolive – a company best known for toothpaste! So before you purchase that bag of K/D or I/D, please consider the origin of this food.

See also:
  • Spanish confirm dog in pet food: http://www.alynsmith.eu/: SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has lodged an emergency Parliamentary Question with the European Commission in Brussels urging EU wide testing of pet food and animal feed after the Spanish authorities confirmed that dog DNA has indeed been found in pet food in Spain. (March 2013) 

Some videos I found (extremely shocking)


  • Most veterinarians acquire their only knowledge on pet nutrition in elective classes in veterinary school. These classes may only last a few weeks and are often taught by representatives from pet food companies. Hill's, lams, and Purina are the largest contributors for these courses. In addition, pet food companies even donate food to the vet students for their own companion animals. This practice has become so widespread among pet food companies that the veterinary school at Colorado State University made this an agenda item for an Executive Committee meeting in 2000. (Food Pets Die For By Ann N Martin, page 21)
  •  One of the dirty little secrets kept by the pet food industry is that some by-products also contain substances such as abscesses and cancerous material. In my opinion, feeding slaughterhouse wastes to animals increases their chances of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. Some meat, especially glandular tissue, may contain high levels of hormones, which may also cause serious health problems including cancer. Unlike bacteria and viruses, these hormones are not destroyed by the high temperatures or pressure cooking used in the manufacture of pet food. Cats seem to be most adversely affected by high hormone levels. (Healing Pets With Nature's Miracle Cures By Henry Pasternak DVM CVA, page 11)
  • Cattle—dead, diseased, dying and disabled (4-D)—can legally be rendered and used in pet foods in the United States and in Canada. Rendering will not eradicate any of the TSEs, including the chronic wasting disease in deer, elk, and roadkill, which can also be rendered for use in pet food. The U.S. government believes it is safe to render diseased cattle for use in pet foods because this practice does not affect humans since we don't eat dogs and cats. But rendering diseased cattle into pet food does potentially endanger our animal companions. This is already happening in Europe. If dogs and cats succumb to a TSE disease, would their owners know the actual cause? (Food Pets Die For By Ann N Martin, page 100)
  •  Another staple of the Tenderer's diet, in addition to farm animals, is euthanized pets-the six or seven million dogs and cats that are killed in animal shelters every year. The city of Los Angeles alone, for example, sends some two hundred tons of euthanized cats and dogs to a rendering plant every month. Added to the blend are the euthanized catch of animal control agencies, and roadkill. (Roadkill is not collected daily, and in the summer, the better roadkill collection crews can generally smell it before they can see it.) When this gruesome mix is ground and steam-cooked, the lighter, fatty material floating to the top gets refined for use in such products as cosmetics, lubricants, soaps, candles, and waxes. The heavier protein material is dried and pulverized into a brown powder—about a quarter of which consists of fecal material. The powder is used as an additive to almost all pet food as well as to livestock feed. Farmers call it "protein concentrates." In 1995, five million tons of processed slaughterhouse leftovers were sold for animal feed in the United States. I used to feed tons of the stuff to my own livestock. It never concerned me that I was feeding cattle to cattle. (Mad Cowboy By Howard F Lyman, page 12)
  • After 45 weeks of producing fertile eggs plagued by hunger, debeaking, detoeing, decombing, toxic ammonia, and diseases, these breeder chickens are "liquidated" and turned into human animal "food" and nonhuman animal "feed" and pet food products. (Poisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs By Karen Davis PhD, page 93)
  •  While researching and writing, there were times that I was absolutely horrified with what I discovered. There were other times when I was extremely frustrated with the run-around I received from government agencies, organizations involved with the pet food industry, the rendering industry, and at times, veterinary research centers. What has kept me going is the hope that pet owners will read my findings and be convinced that their pets' health is directly related to what they eat—and that most commercial pet foods are garbage. The most objectionable source of protein for pet food is euthanized cats and dogs. It is not uncommon for thousands of euthanized dogs and cats to be delivered to rendering plants, daily, and thrown into the rendering vat—collars, I.D. tags, and plastic bags—to become part of this material called "meat meal." (Food Pets Die For, by Ann N Martin, page 153)
  •  "One of the dirty little secrets kept by the pet food industry is that some by-products also contain substances such as abscesses and cancerous material. In my opinion, feeding slaughterhouse waste to animals increases their chances of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. Some meat, especially glandular tissue, may contain high levels of hormones, which may also cause serious health problems including cancer. Unlike bacteria and viruses, these hormones are not destroyed by the high temperatures or pressure cooking used in the manufacture of pet food. Cats seem to be most adversely affected by high hormone levels". Healing Pets With Nature's Miracle Cures by Henry Pasternak DVM CVA, page 11


Do you know what is the Meat in Your Pet's Food?


Home made Pet Food
  • Thanks in large part to the pet food recalls of 2007 and 2012, there has been a growing interest in homemade pet food. Thus, Susan Trixon, a Florida-based pet food activist and founder of the Web site Truth About Pet Food.com, decided to come up with homemade pet food for her large brood of dogs and cats. She ultimately joined forces with Indiana veterinarian Dr Cathy Alinovi (Fb), a certified veterinary food therapist, to write Dinner PAWsible: A cookbook for health nutritious meals for cats and dogs, a comprehensive, self-published recipe book and nutritional guide to home cooking for pets, released in September 2011. Thixton had a chance encounter with Dr. Cathy in 2007, when the vet contacted her in regard to a pet food she was concerned about. As the two were on the same page in many respects, they formed an alliance that resulted in their collaborating on the pet food cookbook. They used NRC and Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines to develop the proper nutritional requirements for their homemade pet food recipes. Dr. Cathy, mom to 10 dogs and five cats, also went to seminars and learned about the connection between pet food and pet allergies. “I starting feeding my dog the homemade pet food and she stopped itching and shedding within three days,” she said. “Pets' personalities also improve with these foods". Thixton does recommend cooking these homemade pet food recipes because of the questionable ingredients in modern meats. There are other homemade pet food cookbooks out there, including “The Culinary Canine: Great Chefs Cook for Their Dogs – And So Can You!,” which has gotten a ton of publicity. But “Dinner PAWsible” has a paw up in that it’s not just a pet food cookbook; it’s a nutritional guide written by someone who has spent 20 years doggedly (if you’ll pardon the pun) researching and investigating pet health and nutrition, and a veterinarian who also has conducted a considerable amount of research into this often highly confusing subject. Dinner PAWsible Now an ePub. For two delish pet food recipes, click here. Source: http://petshops.about.com/od/petfood/p/Homemade-Pet-Food-Recipes.htm 
  • Homemade pet foods are nothing new. In fact, it's only been within the last couple of generations that the majority of pet parents have begun serving their companion animals commercial pet foods. As the authors of "Dinner PAWsible" have pointed out, the commercial pet food industry (and many veterinarians, for that matter) have long frowned on serving pets table scraps and people foods. People of my grandparents' generation solely served table scraps and homemade meals to their pets, and their pets often lived to be ripe old ages. The bottom line is, people foods are not only fine for pets, these are arguably much healthier than commercial pet foods. But Are these Homemade Pet Foods Nutritionally Balanced? The answer is, "Yes". Read more at http://petshops.about.com/od/PetSupplies/r/Homemade-Pet-Food-Recipes.htm
  • Commercial pet foods have long contained questionable ingredients (including toxic chemicals) because there are limited regulations and inspections in place to test these products. Yet, many veterinarians and most dog owners continue to be in the dark about these harmful additives and feed their beloved dogs these troublesome foods. Poor nutrition leads to more health complications, leading many dogs to spend the majority of their lives in some state of disease or pain. In Fresh Food and Ancient Winstom, longtime veterinarian Dr Ihor Basko, DVM (Fb) offers a simple guide to improving your dog's health and happiness through balanced diets filled with natural, organic and fresh ingredients. This book, filled with easy-to-make recipes for all types of dogs in all stages of life, explains why diet change is one of the most important gestures we can make for our pets. Dr. Basko is an expert in the area of dog nutrition.

4 Tips for Feeding Bones to Your Dogs Safely

Care and Love and  
       is what we need      

Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition 



Just "Google" it! 


The pet food market has been dominated in the last few years by the acquisition of big companies by even bigger companies. With $15 billion a year at stake in the U.S. and rapidly expanding foreign markets, it’s no wonder that some are greedy for a larger piece of the pie... The idea that one pet food provides all the nutrition a companion animal will ever need for its entire life is a dangerous myth. Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the variable meat-based diets that their ancestors ate. The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common. Health problems associated with diet include: Urinary tract disease, Kidney disease, Dental disease, Obesity, Chronic digestive problems, Bloat, Heart disease, Hyperthyroidism and so on. Get The Facts via Born Free USA here. The same article translated article in Greek here.

Sadly for your pets, the pet food industry is rapidly becoming Big Business. Big Business to the tune of $15 billion worldwide. Behind closed doors, strategic, acquisitions of smaller companies are quietly taking place - clearly to capitalize on the tremendous profits the pet food industry offers. What most pet owners don't realize is that the pet food industry is actually an extension of the food and agricultural industries. Pet food provides these giant multinational corporations a very convenient and very profitable "built-in" market for wastes left over from their human food production. But here's the problem: Your beloved pet was never designed to eat 'waste'! Dr. Karen Becker (Fb -- info) is a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, pleased to have joined forces with Dr Joseph Mercola to help educate readers about natural animal health. Do you know what is the Meat in Your Pet's Food? Unless you prepare your pet's food yourself, you really don't know for sure what's in it. Read more at http://products.mercola.com/healthypets/real-food-for-healthy-dogs-and-cats-cookbook/
"Σχετικά με την πυκνότητα του ούρου, οι γάτες ως καταγόμενες από προγόνους που διαβιούσαν σε ερήμους, έχουν ιδιαίτερη ικανότητα συμπύκνωσης του ούρου, ώστε και σήμερα ως οικόσιτες, εξακολουθούν κάτω από φυσιολογικές συνθήκες να παράγουν πυκνό ούρο (φυσιλογικό Ε.Β.> 1035). Έτσι , παράγοντες που ευνοούν την περαιτέρω συμπύκνωσή τους, οδηγούν σε υπερκορεσμό του ούρου σε κρυσταλλοειδή και τελικά στην κατακρήμνηση αυτών. Τέτοιος παράγοντας είναι η ποιότητα της τροφής και η συχνότητα των ουρήσεων. Η διατροφή των ζώων αποκλειστικά με ξηρή βιομηχανοποιημένη τροφή ενοχοποιήθηκε γιατί προκάλεσε έκρηξη κρουσμάτων FUS (FLUTD)". Πηγή (Fb)

[Παρουσίαση της FLUTD από την εταιρία ζωοτροφών Hills:  
1 (Fb), 2 (Fb), Συχνοί παράγοντες κινδύνου (κατά την γνώμη μου, απολύτως αντεστραμμένοι!)]  

Πέμπτη, 7 Νοεμβρίου 2013

The zoo industry: The reality of zoos and aquariums

By Lori Marino, Gay Bradshaw and Randy Malamud


Millions of people visit zoos, marine parks and aquariums every year. Ostensibly, these places provide an opportunity to look at, connect with and appreciate the beauty and behavior of the animals. Indeed, everyone is drawn to the majesty and mystery of animals who look and live so differently than we do, but nonetheless seem so similar to us. But more is going on than meets the eye. Exactly what are we learning about other animals in these places? How is the zoo experience different for the animals than it is for the visitors? And what might we learn about ourselves by casting a more examining eye on the institution of zoos and aquariums? 

Most zoo visitors don’t think about what it means that the animals on display have been removed from their native habitats. When they do think about it, people often come to the conclusion that captivity is a necessary evil: Zoos and aquariums are necessary because it is important for people to be able to look at other animals and because this human experience actually helps other animals in the wild. Subsequently, the price we pay for this (or, more accurately, the price the animals pay) is justified. But this rationalization side steps a fundamental question: Why do zoos exist in the first place? How did they begin? To understand why zoos endure so tenaciously in Western culture, we need to look at their historical origins.  

A sordid past 
Displays of animals in captivity go back to ancient times but, as a formal institution involving public spectatorship, zoos arose in the early 19th century to exhibit the living trophies of imperial conquest. The great European powers, engaged in the business of colonizing the planet, collected animals almost as a hobby and began displaying them in public zoos to engage the general public in the products and spoils of imperialism. A majestic elephant confined in a barred enclosure, a snarling tiger pacing menacingly in his cage, an exotic ostrich, a sinuous python and a timid koala all symbolized the conquests of the British (or Dutch or French or other) empire, which spanned the globe.  

As time went by and colonial empires expanded, the traditions of the European zoos were adopted by non-Western cultures, in which public participation in zoo and marine park enterprises is just as enthusiastic as elsewhere. In 1860 the first zoo in the U.S., Central Park Zoo [1], opened to the public in New York City. The first marine park in the U.S. was Marine Studios, a dolphinarium (aquarium for dolphins) that opened in 1938 in St. Augustine, Florida, and is now known as Marineland Florida. Other forms of animal confinement, such as traveling menageries, appeared in Europe as early as the turn of the 18th century. They were the precursors to modern circuses, which commonly included not only the display of other animals, but human freak shows. It was not uncommon for zoos and exhibitions like the World’s Fair to create ethnographic displays that included people in cages along with other animals [1]. Popular “specimens” of the human variety included people from the Japanese Ainu, Native American Kwakiutl, Filipino Igorot and other “primitive” cultures. 

Zoos no longer exhibit members of our own species in cages, but the other animals are still there. We still capture them, “acclimatize” them, and make them visual targets of our whims. By definition, confinement subordinates its captives and gives the viewer complete power over them. Ideally, the experience of interacting with other animals should enhance our understanding of the interconnected, mutually shared web of life, but the institution of the zoo forestalls any such insights. We are out here; they are in there.  

On their own  
Very little real legal protection exists for animals residing in zoos and aquariums. Zoos, circuses and marine mammal parks are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act and its regulations, and are inspected for compliance on a regular basis. But regulations are general. And while there are penalties for violations, they are small, and the agencies that perform such inspections are extremely understaffed relative to the number of institutions requiring examination. The World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) is an “umbrella” professional organization whose members include leading zoos and aquariums. It offers inspection-based accreditation. But as with all professional organizations, it provides only unenforceable recommendations for the treatment of animals. Even more important, since WAZA and the other professional organizations make up the zoo and aquarium community, they have a vested interest in maintaining and encouraging the existence of these institutions. This situation inherently puts these organizations in conflict with the interest of the animals. 

There are also regulations restricting the capture and transport of animals. The Convention of International Trade in Endagered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) [1] is an international agreement among member nations. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. But CITES relies on voluntary membership and, in essence, is a gentlemen’s agreement among the member nations to enact their own widely different domestic laws. Sanctions against violating nations are possible, but occur very rarely because of the delicate nature of international relations. Finally, all these laws, treaties and guidelines take as their starting point the assumption that zoos and marine parks are not inherently detrimental to animals. Therefore, there is no regulating body that gives any weight to the argument that captivity itself should be questioned. The animals are very much on their own and subject to the dictates of organizations that have a financial interest in maintaining their captivity.  

Reality check 
In modern times, support for the original colonial reason for zoos has gone the way of other politically incorrect cultural phenomena and, as a result, public awareness of nature and environmental issues has come to the forefront. Zoos and marine parks have adjusted to this shift in political winds by re-branding themselves as principal agents for species preservation and public education - that is, modern-day Noah’s arks. This new message saturates every element of the zoo and marine park experience, including the appearance of animal displays, the kinds of items sold in gift shops, the language used in display text and by docents and trainers, and even the ways visitor activities are described. For example, on its website the Bronx Zoo [1] (which now calls itself the Wild Life Conservation Society) refers to some of its displays as “living classrooms.” Even the physical appearance of zoos has been contrived to replace the old circus-like atmosphere with components of “nature,” such as trees, boulders and water.  

But, we might ask, while the new messaging of zoos and marine parks may advertise conservation and education, has there been any real change in their motivations and purpose? What is the reality behind all the hype? Is there any evidence that visits to zoos and marine parks have an educational and conservation impact? These facilities proclaim educational and conservation benefits in their brochures and on their websites, but the evidence is lacking. Recently, we analyzed a major Study funded by the National Science Foundation and conducted by members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The study has been widely promoted by the zoo and aquarium industry as definitive evidence that zoo and aquarium visits produce long-term effects on people’s attitudes about animals. A press release refers to the report as a “groundbreaking study” and claims that “visiting accredited zoos and aquariums in North America has a measurable impact on the conservation attitudes and understanding of adult visitors.” The report goes on to quote Cynthia Vernon vice president of conservation programs for the Monderey Bay Aquarium and an investigator on this project: “The Visitor Impact Study shows that zoos and aquariums are enhancing public understanding of wildlife and the conservation of the places animals live. It validates the idea that we are having a strong impact on our visitors.” AZA president and CEO Jim Maddy asserts that “for the first time we have reliable data validating the positive impact zoos and aquariums have in changing visitors’ feelings and attitudes about conservation.” Is this study the Holy Grail that zoos and marine parks have been waiting for to validate their message of education and conservation and to justify keeping animals in captivity? 

Our analysis at the AZA study methodology [1, 2] reveals that the study lacks scientific rigor and is extremely flawed, and its conclusions are unwarranted. In short, the AZA or other agencies have not yet demonstrated how zoos and marine parks enhance public education or promote conservation of wild populations. More over, as Bob Mullan and Garry Marvin describe in Zoo Culture, in a recent study of visitors to the Reptile House in the National Zoo, Washington, D.C., the average time recorded for people visiting the entire house was 9.7 minutes, with an average of only 26 seconds spent in front of each enclosure. It is difficult to see how any meaningful learning can occur in such short time periods.  

More disturbing is that the beliefs and practices of zoos have spread to other venues, such as marine parks that promote interaction between visitors and dolphins. Many people are seeking interactive encounters that allow them to get “hands on” with the animals. This need for a more “consuming” experience has led to the growth of the swim-with-dolphins industry. These interactive programs are also related to the highly lucrative business of dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT), in which a person pays to swim or interact with a dolphin in captivity while also engaging in other mainstream learning and physical rehabilitative tasks. The patient is led to believe that the dolphin is the key therapeutic agent in the process. However, two studies by Lori Marino and Scott Lilienfeld analyzing the scientific validity of DAT showed that these programs are based on highly flawed methods and there is no evidence for the claim that DAT is effective treatment for any disorders. 

The conservation fallacy 
In asserting that captivity is necessary to save wildlife, a serious ethical assumption is made: The prolonged suffering of confined animals balances out the effort to save their counterparts in the wild – a central premise of zoos and aquariums. Yet science shows that the stress and trauma of captivity compromises the mental and physical health of individuals. The result is that countless efforts to re-introduce animals into (a mostly desecrated) wild have failed. 

There is a very real danger to believing the message of zoos and aquariums. If we pretend that we can learn about animals by watching them in these human-created compounds of cement and steel, then we are saying that natural habitats are irrelevant. And if the animals’ natural context is implicitly presented as unimportant, then zoos are actually contradicting the message they claim to affirm, that environmental conservation is a pressing concern. Zoos palliate people’s anxieties about a disappearing natural world, instead of forcing us to confront the imminent dangers to animals. In this way, zoos create a false sense of security about the survival and welfare of other animals. A zoo filled with empty cages might be a more realistic way to convey the impending loss of species. 

By making captivity seem normal, zoos and aquariums hide the fact that forced confinement is brutal and cruel. In addition to causing severe physical hardships because poor environmental conditions fail to meet the evolutionary and ecological needs of an individual animal, captivity (outside appropriate sanctuary conditions) imposes serious psychological stress. Hard concrete, limited movement, noise, near-constant exposure to visitors, lack of family groups, and threat or actual violence by keepers all undermine the animals’ well-being. For these reasons, many animals display behaviors and emotional states indicative of psychological trauma and distress:self-injuries,eatingdisorders,infanticide,hyper-aggression, depression and many others. Even in zoos where an effort is made to provide nutritious food, some social contact, some kind of “natural setting” and environ-mental enrichment, the animals suffer terrible deprivation because we can no more simulate the richness of a natural life for other animals than we could for humans in captivity. 

Sanctuary: the remedy  
To help with the burgeoning number of animals who are left in the limbo of captive life, unable to return to their native homes, a growing number of sanctuaries have been established. The difference between a legitimate sanctuary and a zoo (or marine park) is enormous. Unlike zoos and aquariums, sanctuaries are places created only to help animals who are hurt or displaced, places where the culture of public viewing and entertainment do not compete with animal welfare. Sanctuaries do not seek to acquire animals from the wild or breed those held in captivity; they are established solely to provide refuge and care for individuals who have suffered at the hands of people. 

Many animals actually come to sanctuaries from zoos. There are several reasons why zoos relinquish animals to sanctuaries. Zoos will sometimes agree to transfer an animal to sanctuary if the animal becomes sick or old, or is considered dangerous or difficult to handle. One good example is Maggie, the young African elephant who almost perished in the zoo where she was being kept. Maggie lived in Anchorage’s Alaska Zoo until 2007. After losing the companionship of another elephant, Maggie’s health declined. Zoo personnel, veterinarians, scientists and public advocates feared that Maggie’s survival was threatened after so many years of living in inhospitable conditions (including, most obviously, the drastic difference between her native African climate and Alaska’s extreme cold). After much debate, and more than one episode of collapse, Maggie was released and now lives at the Performing Animal Welfare Society Shelter in California, where she quickly regained her strength and well-being. She lives with other elephants and is supplied with varied and nutritious foods, good medical care and treatment for her health issues. She enjoys acres and acres of expansive habitat more akin to that of her native Africa than what she experienced in Anchorage.  

This brings us to another difference between zoos and sanctuaries. Sanctuaries reflect the perspective of the animal, not the human visitor – or the pocket book. Zoos are established specifically for human objectives. Sanctuaries are specifically designed “from the eyes of the animal.” For instance, there are sanctuaries designed for the needs of chimpanzees, many of whom are in recovery from being subjects of biomedical experimentation or from an arduous life in the entertainment industry. Sanctuaries are also designed to support and reinstate every individual resident’s sense of self. A sanctuary provides the right kind of terrain, plant life, water, companions, atmosphere and food; it offers interesting and exciting places to explore, and addresses any other special needs a resident may have. A sanctuary thereby creates competence, a sense of mastery and agency, the feeling of being able to make meaningful decisions and choices. It also offers security. The sanctuary can become an animal’s home for the duration of his or her life, and it’s a place to make friends and have relationships that endure long-term.  

Our ethical responsibility 
Caught up in the colonial legacy of conquest and possession, modern humans have made animals pay a terrible price. Our sense of entitlement to see any animal when, where and how we want has created a culture of slavery and oppression for animals. We have become complacent about the animals with whom we share our everyday lives and demand that if we live in, say, Atlanta or Cleveland or San Diego, far away from the African savannahs and jungles of India, we are entitled to see elephants and tigers. 

We must ask ourselves: Are we humans entitled to have access to every creature on Earth, that is, the whole panorama of charismatic megafauna- giraffes and tigers, rhinos and chimpanzees, dolphins and killer whales? Do we really need such a star-studded smorgasbord of animals held captive in order to understand how important it is to save them and their natural habitats? Or shall we commit to developing a mutually supportive relationship with our “kin under the skin” and learn to care for them without having to touch them or confine them behind walls and bars?

Lori Marino [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], Ph.D., is senior lecturer in the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program at Emory University. Gay Bradshaw, Ph.D., Ph.D., is director of The Kerulos Center and co-founder of the Trans-Species Institute. Randy Malamu [1, 2, 3], Ph.D., is a professor of English and associate chair of the Department of English at Georgia State University

Source: Published at

Σχετικός σύνδεσμος: ΖΩΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΙ ΚΗΠΟΙ, ΓΙΑΤΙ ΟΧΙ;