Friday, December 15, 2006

Reisistance is Feral

Over at Counterpunch Jason Hribal gives an overview of captive animal intransigence:

"The acts of resistance that often attract the most attention are violent forms. Arms are bitten off. Flesh is torn. Bones are crushed. Humans are killed. The most famous recent event occurred in 2002 in Las Vegas during a Siegfried and Roy show. Montecore, a 6 year veteran of stage, refused to lie down during a routine, and, when his trainer bristled, the white tiger clamped down on his arm. After being repeatedly hit on the head with a microphone, Montecore then grabbed him by the neck. His trainer would survive but only barely. Others have not been so lucky."

It doesn't take much to figure out why this happens. When I was growing up in the New York area I'd go to the Bronx Zoo on occasion. This was back in the 50s and 60s so the confinements were victorian and crude. The animals were plainly suffering in their cramped and spare captivity and would exhibit all kinds of mental and physical pathology. Some were very thin or fat, there were bald spots and sores, some seemed to be in a constant state of torpor or would act out their anguish with repeated movements over and over again because they went crazy. Lots of anti social and violent behavior. It was sickening.

"The most common forms of resistance, however, are those particularly unspectacular in their methods. Cheetahs who refuse to do anything. Tigers who ignore commands. Elephants who fake ignorance. Orcas who rebuff new tasks. Gorillas who break equipment. Chimpanzees who throw their shit ("scatological humor," as zoo officials call it) at visitors. One researcher marveled at how skillful the monkeys at the Los Angeles Zoo were at hitting visitors with "clods of earth" from great distances. Then there was Stuffie, the first chimp ever produced from artificial insemination. Shot to death in 1987 while attempting to escape, she was infamous at the Toledo Zoo for holding milk in her mouth for hours on end: waiting patiently until her trainers came close enough so that she could spit it out in their faces."

Even in the modern zoo environments that tout their progressive attitudes toward captivity the animals still get bored, lonely, restricted and are deprived of any control of their lives. In the acclaimed Oregon Coast Aquarium the otters repeat the same behavior back and forth for hours on end. These places are far better than the small dirty cells from fifty years ago. But it's still an unnatural existence. A lot of these parks and zoos pretend they're all about protection of species and education, but when it comes to money they're more concerned with propagation and entertainment. If the money grows tight it's spent on cosmetic improvements rather than on animal welfare, to draw in the paying customers.

I don't even want to talk about circuses.

It's easy to anthropomorphize confined animals and their response to a degraded existence. It seems like it's a natural tendency for authoritarian societies to confine and imprison, just like it's the natural response of free thinking people to demand a freer environment. It's no wonder the US has over 2.2 million people behind bars giving us the distinction of having the highest per capita incarceration in the world. The fascists will always automatically default to a prison mentality when faced with opposition. Thus our expeditionary forces in Iraq have dredged up the "strategic hamlet" program. Hence the new era of "free speech zones". Consequently we see the government awarding $400,000,000 to Halliburton to build concentration camps.

If we willingly decide to accept this fate, I wonder what animal behavior our response will resemble - the big cat who sleeps on the cold concrete for 20 hours a day that only gets up to eat what's thrown to him, or the monkeys who throw something of their own back the other way?


Post a Comment

<< Home