Sunday, April 1, 2007

How You Can Help Animals in Captivity

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Perhaps you don’t have a lot of time in your day-to-day life to devote to animal activism. That’s okay, you can do as little or as much as you want. Whether you are at home, at work or out with friends, you CAN make a difference in the lives of captive animals.

Here are 12 simple ways in which you can make people aware of the plight of animals in captivity:

1) If you see a poster sponsoring a local zoo in the window or on the bulletin board of a grocery store or some other kind of business, write or call that business and voice your concerns. Explain to them how animals suffer in captivity, how zoos put the public at unnecessary risk and that you will not support businesses that support cruelty.

2) Arrange to speak at your local town or city council about why a new zoo should not be allowed to open or why an existing one should not be permitted to expand. Make sure you do your homework and speak from facts as well as feelings.

3) If your local newspaper prints a feature story on a local zoo, write to the paper and explain the problem with zoos and that you will not purchase a paper that condones animal exploitation. Also, if your local paper writes against a particular place that keeps animals captive, write and express your appreciation and support.

4) Invite your family or friends to watch a nature or wildlife documentary film with you (they also make great gifts!). Have a discussion afterwards about why it’s better for animals to live in the wild rather than in a zoo.

5) Some humane societies work in partnership with local zoos in a misguided attempt to educate the public about wildlife. If this happens in your area, write to the humane society and explain to them why zoos are doing a disservice to animals by keeping them in captivity. Remind them that they are supposed to be protecting animals and not working with those that exploit them.

6) Get permission to hang up an anti-zoo poster at work, along with brochures explaining why the public should not support places that display wild animals.

7) If your child’s class is planning a field trip to a zoo or marine park, write to the teacher and the school principal explaining why you will not let your child attend. You can also meet with the teacher and supply him or her with information about zoos along with alternatives that do not exploit animals.

8) Distribute anti-captivity literature at work, your veterinarian’s office, the library or even downtown at a busy intersection (just make sure you are not violating any municipal bylaws first).

9) If you notice that a lot of books at your local library endorse the keeping of animals in captivity, donate books (as well as videos and DVDs) that show animals living in their natural environments and discourage keeping animals in zoos (books also make great birthday or Christmas gifts).

10) Strike up a conversation about animals in captivity whenever and wherever you get the opportunity. If there has been a recent incident involving a local zoo, raise the issue with the person you are sitting beside on the bus. Try talking with a friend about animals in captivity when standing in line to see a movie, just loud enough so that the people in front of or behind you can hear.

11) If you witness neglect or abuse at the zoo or marine park, inform the proper authorities, including the local humane society and the nearest animal protection group immediately.

12) Wear an anti-zoo button or t-shirt to show how you feel about animals in captivity. You can also place a bumper sticker with an anti-captivity message on the back of your car – people will notice, guaranteed!

You can purchase anti-zoo merchandise, including brochures and another educational materials, from a number of national and international animal advocacy groups. Some organizations may send you brochures to distribute for free (or for a minimal donation to help with printing costs, shipping, etc.).

Remember, you can be creative and assertive when helping the animals but above all, be polite. Let them know that you are just like them – compassionate, caring and kind – but that you don’t want to see animals suffer needlessly.

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