Mar 242016


The recent announcement that SeaWorld is ending their orca program and forging an alliance with HSUS sparked widely diverse emotional responses, from joy to despair, but most serious animal people were deeply hurt and furious.

I am not going to address the specific orca question: despite my tens of thousands of hours working with hundreds of species, I do not possess sufficient knowledge or experience with marine mammals to know whether or not orcas can thrive in captivity. This determination belongs in the hands of dedicated, knowledgeable, caring experts, and not abandoned to weekend activists, anti-animal fanatics, pre-occupied politicians, or casual animal lovers. And I am not privy to what happens at SeaWorld, so I cannot speak to the details of their care.

Nor am I going to attack those at SeaWorld for this decision.  We are all struggling to find best and most effective paths in the current world, and I do not have access to all the information they had.  I suspect it was a serious mistake for SeaWorld to become a publicly traded company, but even if they had not, no institution can long survive what SeaWorld has been facing, so they did what they believed was necessary to survive in the short term, even though doing so may well have sacrificed the future.

I want to discuss some of the broader realities and process failures that got us to this point:

It is profoundly saddening that SeaWorld has been unable to persuasively communicate the core truth that responsibly managed captivity is a great alternative in parallel with protection of wild animals. That animals can do better living with people than in the wild.  That they can be happier, healthier, and longer-lived.  That man has today claimed every inch of the planet and that the only future for most species inexorably includes human involvement. That most animals care not about the idea of freedom, but about survival, comfort, and happiness.

It is devastating that SeaWorld partnered with an organization that has shown repeatedly that it will not rest until every single animal living with man has been removed or eliminated.

It is flabbergasting that a filmmaker with no relevant knowledge, education, or experience, and a woefully lopsided, sentiment-based agenda, could produce false and misleading propaganda and raise up an army of well-meaning-but-utterly-misinformed do-gooders who—in the name of orcas—set about destroying the greatest ally orcas have ever known.

It is gravely disappointing how many excellent animal facilities have seen no choice but to die with a whimper, or hand over their soul to the devil and betray their colleagues and the truth.

It is crushing how close we are to a world in which all animals have been shoved out of our homes and lives and banished to an illusory “wild.”

It is depressing how little SeaWorld, and other animal professionals, have been able to educate the public that good animal training is not cruel, coercive, or exploitative.  That animals need, and love, to play the game, figure things out, and perform complicated behaviors.

It is unfathomable how many people embrace an agenda that they have not bothered to fully grasp, and do grievous harm to animals while passionately believing that they are helping.  How many people are certain they know best, even when they know nothing at all.

But the most frightening and saddening truth is this: science and reason surrendered to a mob of pitchfork-brandishing villagers.  Knowledge and thoughtful pursuit of truth abandoned the field to ignorance, hatred, and frenzy. However you may feel about SeaWorld, you should be very afraid of a world in which the mob can control such decisions.

Make no mistake: animals and those who love them are losing badly. Sea World’s capitulation was a grave defeat for Earth’s animals. But perhaps even worse, it was a devastating blow for mankind. Watch the responses to SeaWorld’s decision, and relentlessly you will hear people with inadequate knowledge repeat the tautological assumption—“Wild animals belong in the wild because they are wild and yearn for freedom.”  No matter how much logic and data are presented to them clearly demonstrating the fallacy of their position, they will simply repeat their impenetrable certainty.  Reason, knowledge, and discourse are little match for sentimentality, unabashed ignorance, certitude, and zealotry.

Some may not recognize the enormity of this event: SeaWorld, after all, is but one organization, and we are only talking about a few orcas. But we are not really talking about SeaWorld as a brick-and-mortar institution.  SeaWorld is an icon, a metaphor.  SeaWorld is a manifestation of the notion that enterprise, entertainment, education, and animal care can synergistically coexist. SeaWorld, until recently, generated a great deal of revenue and profit, but its managers directed a significant portion of those profits into the welfare of their animals, aiding wild animals, conducting groundbreaking research, educating the public, and generating interest and affection for marine mammals.  It is cruelly ironic that the only reason people care enough about orcas to be attacking SeaWorld is because SeaWorld brought the charismatic mammals to our focused attention, and made them into the icons we treasure so deeply.  SeaWorld was the principal global institution with the resources and commitment to stand toe-to-toe with the Animal Rights groups and say, “No! We will not capitulate to misguided sentimentality no matter how loudly you yell.”

SeaWorld was one of the last citadels protecting the ideal that animals and people can live together, and that both can be the better for it. I do not know if there is hope left, but if there is, it lies with every single person who loves animals banding together right now and saying with one voice what I wish SeaWorld had said: Enough. We will not be intimidated; we will not let you eliminate animals from our world.  We will not let you distort responsible care and love and stewardship and call them exploitation. We will not let your simplistic fanaticism crush truth. We are the true lovers of animals, the people who dedicate our lives to caring for them and learning about them. With immense devotion and immeasurable reflection and action, we have learned what is humane, what is ethical, what is best for the animals.  And while we will always welcome thoughtful, informed input into how we can do better, we shall ceaselessly strive to ensure that the animals we love always have homes in the wild and with us.

 March 24, 2016  Posted by at 11:01 pm Tagged with: , , , , ,
Jan 142014



I love wolves and wolfdogs, and have previously written several articles on this blog and elsewhere refuting the commonly asserted negatives: wolfdogs are not inherently dangerous, they can be very happy in captivity, they are not confused by their competing lineages, they can be effectively immunized, and in the right situations they can be wonderful pets. Wolfdogs are often extremely intelligent and tend to have a deep connection with their people.  They can be among the most beautiful of animals, and for those interested in improving as trainers they provide some of the best learning opportunities as their behaviors and responses tend to be very clear and direct.

Brit&ShayJan09031However, when people ask me about getting a wolfdog, in almost every case I attempt to dissuade them, and I IMG_5477wanted to share the reasons why:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a wolfdog as a pet! But in the vast majority of cases, there is a “better” breed of dog available.  For many hundreds of years, selective breeding has been “improving” upon the characteristics of our canine companions, and for the most part has been hugely successful.  Dogs without immediate wolf heritage are generally easier to live with, more tractable, more trainable, less fearful, less destructive, easier to contain, less protective of resources, and in many other ways more adapted to normal human lifestyles. With hard work and commitment, you can accomplish many things with a wolfdog, but with the same amount of work you will generally get considerably further with a dog.  When you get any dog, you must be committed to altering your life to make the relationship succeed, but with most dogs you can expect them to accommodate and meet you more than half-way.  With a wolfdog, you will likely have to do considerably more of the accommodating…

Additionally, there are hundreds of dog breeds with a huge array of distinctive attributes.  Whatever characteristics are most important to you, there are likely a few breeds that far exceed wolfdogs.

IMG_0181-2I generally tell people who are looking for a pet, that the first step is honest careful evaluation of their life and their expectations of where a pet will fit into that life. What experiences are they looking to share?  Will they take the pet with them in the car, participate in particular activities, or train particular behaviors?  Do they want the pet to participate in, or even help with, certain aspects of their lives? Only once you have rigorously assessed your expectations can you begin to focus on what pet will be best, BrittBunnyEarsand for most people the best dog breed–the breed with which they are likeliest to share a long and wonderful adventure–is something other than a wolfdog…



 January 14, 2014  Posted by at 6:46 am
Jan 072014


Most readers are likely aware that Western black rhinos went extinct in recent years.  By far, the two largest factors in driving this extinction were habitat loss and poaching.  Despite millions of dollars spent and many laws passed attempting to stem the trade of rhino horns, Western black rhinos were wiped off the face of the planet largely in a few decades.

Let us imagine a different scenario:

Back around 1970, a small number of rhino were allowed to be removed from the wild and kept by private owners.  Several ranchers in Texas spent lots of money and each imported several rhinos.  They built them huge pastures—in some cases larger than the area they had in the “wild.” They spent lots of money on veterinary care and enrichment because their profit depended upon healthy, long lived animals.  They bred them and grew their herds.  Once every 18 months or so, each rhino was sedated and its horn removed at the same time routine veterinary procedures were performed. When they awakened, they were in no pain, and their horns grew back in around a year. The ranchers made lots of money, much of which they put back into their rhino operations, and they worked together to improve the care and husbandry of rhinos, and created a database so they could breed the healthiest and strongest.  They sold babies to other people looking to get into the rhino-horn business.  And a small but thriving industry was born.

Undoubtedly a few incompetent, unscrupulous, or greedy people would do a bad job—a few rhinos would suffer and die. But the overwhelming majority would be well cared for, and the species would be safe and thriving.  There would be thousands of healthy black rhinos today, well-cared for on ranches not only in Texas, but in Africa and elsewhere.  There would be plenty of specimens to repopulate the wild. Yes, they would be “captive,” but would that be worse or better than extinct?

This scenario did not occur, and in fact was not even broadly discussed, because the animal rights movement was so effective at persuading people that animals cannot be humanely utilized, that animals belong only in the “wild.” They passed law after law “protecting” black rhinos from any captive future, and prohibiting the rhino-horn trade, but in doing so obliterated the very fiscal incentive that might have motivated some people to allocate land and resources to breeding these animals.  They protected black rhinos straight into extinction.

The phrase, “better dead than caged” has often been proclaimed by those who believe animals should never be kept.  I wonder, would the Western black rhinos agree?

This question is worth contemplating, not merely for our own edification, but also because there are many other species, and other subspecies of rhino, on a similar trajectory.  Should we save them to live with us or let them go extinct?


 January 7, 2014  Posted by at 4:00 am Tagged with: , ,
Nov 272011

Several people have asked me to comment on the incident in Ohio in which Terry Thompson was found dead and his animal loose.

I cannot meaningfully comment on what occurred: I just do not have enough verifiable information.  Certainly the timing of the event (in the middle of a huge battle in Ohio about whether or not exotic animals should be banned), and many of the reported details—cages cut open when Terry had a key, and raw chicken piled around his body—sound suspiciously like animal rights zealots killed Terry staged it to look like a suicide.  But then, he was also in financial trouble, with a history that suggests mental instability, and was having legal and familial problems, so suicide certainly is possible. I just cannot comment about what really happened…

What I can say is that while exotic animal ownership is an important topic worth discussing (and one that has been discussed on this blog many times), this incident had absolutely nothing to do with that topic.

Even if we assume that Terry committed these acts himself, it is the story of a mentally unstable man with a criminal history who went insane, ran amuck and loosed his animals, and shot himself.  This is very sad on many levels, but has nothing to do with animal ownership.  He could just as easily have killed his children—would we then be talking about banning children?  He could have driven his car into oncoming traffic—would we be talking about banning cars?  Could have poured gasoline on himself and ignited it, would we ban gasoline?

I have said it time and again, and will undoubtedly say it many more times: it is counterproductive to look at the few outlying worst cases within ANY activity and draw conclusions about that activity.  The bottom few percent within ANY group are awful, and that includes animal owners just as it includes parents, college students, drivers, etc. We cannot draw meaningful conclusions about the activity, or create effective regulations, by focusing on these aberrant cases.

If you are moved by what happened in Ohio, then by all means address yourself to the correct issue: how can we help mentally ill people get the help they need?  Or even, how can we help people who are deeply in debt and see no way out, or have lost their family and feel hopelessly alone, see that there are better solutions than rage, aggression, and suicide?

But if you want to talk about the important topic of animals and their relationship to man in the modern world, we will need to do so another time—a time when people have not been whipped into an emotional frenzy by animal rights zealots seeking to use this incident to inflame sentimentality and obscure reason so as to achieve their own longstanding agenda of creating laws to prevent reasonable and sane individuals from keeping animals.  That topic cannot be illuminated by focusing on rare cases in which individuals behave in a manner that can only be deemed insane.

That said, there were a few interesting secondary observations possible during the media storm:

  1. The media is dysfunctional.  They leap to conclusions and present the information that supports their conclusion while ignoring all else. They are unimaginative and largely incapable of rigorous thought. How many of them seriously considered the POSSIBILITY that this incident was staged by an animal rights zealot?  Even though it occurred in a state where exotic animal legislation has been a huge fight recently (and in which the animal rights position was losing until this event, after which they will unequivocally win), even though AR zealots are constantly proclaiming their desire to orchestrate exactly such incidents, even though the cages were cut, and raw chicken was piled around Mr. Thompson’s dead body,  pretty much no media outlets even seriously entertained the possibility that this could have been a staged murder.
  2. There is a ridiculous tendency to assume that anyone who owns exotic animals is, ipso facto, insane. This prevents real discourse from occurring.  If you assume the group is insane, of course nothing they say, no matter how true , rational, or persuasive, can ever sway you.
  3. Jack Hanna is always able to raise the bar on uninformed and ignorant thoughtlessness.
  4. Wayne Pacelle is always able to raise the bar on megalomaniacal, solipsistic evil. Whatever events occur, he can find a way to look at them solely from his narrow perspective and twist whatever truths may be present to fit his agenda.
  5. There are a huge number of well-intentioned people in this country who have very little animal experience, but have made up their minds that “wild animals belong only in the wild” and are unable or unwilling to set aside their preconceptions and authentically discuss and consider the issue. If you have little experience, take some time to speak with those who have genuine experience BEFORE formulating your position.
  6. There are a huge number of people in this country who have no genuine understanding of the animal rights agenda, the core values of HSUS, the stated willingness of the AR extremists to kill or do whatever else is needed to get their way; and who are essentially unaware of the entire war that is being waged between responsible animal owners and those who seek to eradicated all animal “use.”
  7. Time after time, those who oppose wild animals in captivity have argued that the danger, if ever one of these animals got out, is so great that it should never be risked.  Of course, escapes are SO RARE that it is hard to evaluate the merit of their assertion, but here is a case in which 49 of the most dangerous animals on the planet were intentionally set free, and how many people were eaten?  How many children carried away?  How many pets even harmed?  ZERO.  Heck, they did not even consume the body that was lying there…  This of course does not mean that, given more time these animals would not have caused harm, they almost certainly would have, but perhaps it suggests that they are not quite the dire immediate threat that has been alleged.

Everything that happened that day in Zanesville is sad, and there are undoubtedly many lessons to be learned from the events if we ever truly know what happened. But this was not a story about animals escaping, or about wild animals being unhappy or unhealthy in captivity, no matter how much some people want to twist it into such a story. It is the story of a person losing his mind and behaving irrationally, and that is not an appropriate basis for discussing unrelated issues.



 November 27, 2011  Posted by at 8:41 pm
Nov 022011

I generally avoid nature documentaries—they tend to contain so much misinformation that they make me crazy—but the other night I was flipping channels, and I watched a few minutes of two different shows, both about lions, that really piqued my curiosity:

Lions are a true apex predator—one of the most powerful and successful creatures on the planet with few adversaries. So their lives are in many ways easier, safer, and more comfortable than most other animals.

In the first show, a lioness was raising her cubs in what turned out to be the territory of a cobra, and each of the cubs and the mother ended up being bitten.  Within a few agonizing minutes the cubs were all dead, but it took much longer for the mother, who was clearly in incredible pain and anguish as she lay next to her dead cubs, growing weaker and weaker, salivating and cramping and going blind before eventually a pack of hyenas showed up to terrorize her before she finally died…


In the second, a pride of lions (a 3 year old male, several females, and a bunch of cubs) was struggling to survive.  In a brief period they had battled drought, and a scarcity of food, and they were weak and hungry.  They finally managed to catch a buffalo which was great news for the lion pride, but was gruesome for the buffalo who was essentially pulled down by the weight of several lionesses and eaten alive…  But at least the lions were finally able to eat, although each of them had countless flies on her face making even the brief moment of satiation rather unpleasant.  Then, just as they were finishing their first meal in weeks, an unknown male lion showed up to fight with and defeat the resident male.  The resident male was injured, and limped off to die a slow agonizing death of starvation, while the new male spent the next hour or so killing all the cubs and playing with their lifeless bodies.

Each of these is, obviously, quite sad on an emotional level, but I was able to set aside my sentimental response and remember that this is how nature works: almost all wild animals will face hunger and injury and cold and parasites before dying an unpleasant death while they are still quite young.

What I could not answer, and still cannot, is how so many people can look at a lion in captivity—lounging on a comfortable bed, eating its fill of optimal food, free from flies and worms and fleas, drinking clean fresh water every day, running and playing without a worry in the world, living several times longer, raising babies in safety—and feel sorry for the captive animal.  Feel that the animal would be happier or better off living the “free” life of a wild animal.  Certainly, there are some captive animals that are abused or neglected and would be better off in any other situation, but you would have to look long and hard to find ANY animal in captivity that suffers more than its wild counterparts…

May 232011

One common argument as to why animals of species that have not been domesticated for thousands of years should not be kept as pets is that they are “unpredictable” and might be sweet one minute and aggressive the next.  A few days ago I read an interesting article making this argument and illustrating the premise with an anecdote:  a person was playing with her pet raccoon and having a lovely time, and then she spilled her soda and the raccoon started drinking up the liquid and when she tried to pick up the animal and take him away from the spillage, he snarled and attempted to bite her.

This interesting anecdote; however, does not at all demonstrate “unpredictability.”  In fact, it illustrates the diametric opposite: that animals (wild or domestic) will in certain circumstances behave EXACTLY as a rational person would expect them to behave—like animals.  Animals will sometimes guard resources that they value: they will use their voice, their expression, and their teeth or claws to get what they want.  Predators will sometime try to kill prey animals.  Animals will sometimes fight for dominance or social position.  Animals have moods.  Animals have hormones.  Animals are not dolls, and not angelic Disney creatures. Unless you have worked very hard to remedy such behavior, pretty much every raccoon in the world will—predictably —behave exactly as hers did.

This does NOT mean they cannot be wonderful pets and companions.  If what you want is a companion that will be perfectly benign and never do anything untoward, get a teddy bear.  Animals are slightly more complex.  They require that those who interact with them possess a modicum of sense, pay attention to their language and behavior, and be aware and respectful of their capabilities.

Animals have been behaving this way for millennia and will continue to behave this way.  Not only wild animals, ALL animals…  Even within the most domesticated species, individuals will sometimes act in accordance with their wild natures.  This does not make them unpredictable and it does not make them bad pets.  It simply makes them living, breathing individuals with teeth and claws and personalities.  And isn’t that precisely why we choose to share our lives with them?

 May 23, 2011  Posted by at 8:25 am
Jul 272010

For those who met Titan while he was staying with us, or watched his videos on this blog, here is a picture of him in his new home.  He is doing great and has remained the sweetest and happiest tiger imaginable.  He has a nice enclosure and a great pond, but nothing beats a nice swim in the pool on a warm summer day:

 July 27, 2010  Posted by at 5:43 pm
Mar 282010

On  February 24, 2010 in SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida, animal trainer Dawn Brancheau was pulled under the water by an orca. A few minutes later, Dawn was dead.  Subsequent discussion in the media and around the Net has focused on the keeping of orcas and the dangers of working with powerful predators.

Profoundly missing in this discussion is Dawn’s voice.

I cannot speak for Dawn, but I can share with you the professional animal trainers’ perspective. You see, we all understand a common truth, and when an event like this occurs, we talk late into the night trying to figure out how we can effectively share that truth with others – how we can explain why, as Roy Horn was slipping from consciousness in the jaws of Mantecore the tiger during a Las Vegas show, he was saying over and over, “Please don’t hurt the cat… .”

Animal training is not a job, not a hobby, not an interest.  It is an all-consuming passion.  Those of us who devote our lives to working with animals love what we do beyond reason.  We work 365 days a year, and when we are not working with animals, we are playing with them.  We forego vacations, families, nice clothes, tidy homes, and most social activities to spend our lives with animals. We spend countless hours talking about how to care for animals, we get up every few hours to bottle-feed baby creatures, we spend all our money on animal care, and we use most of the rooms in our homes for something animal related.  We are joyously consumed by our chosen path, and when an animal causes one of us injury or death we are sad, but hold no ill-will towards the animal. Let me explain.

We work with animals – not Disney characters, or humans wearing fur costumes – but real animals with real teeth and claws and immense power who behave according to their animal natures. We know that our chosen vocation is extremely safe based on the number of people harmed, but we  also recognize that it entails real risk.  We believe that life is an adventure we cannot authentically live solely by avoiding those things that might result in failure, injury, or death. Some people climb mountains, race cars, surf, pilot airplanes, luge, or share their lives with animals, and each of these journeys poses risks, although in truth people are far likelier to die in traffic accidents or childbirth than in any of these more dramatic undertakings.  Sitting at home on a couch may indeed be a safer choice, but living a rich and full life and owning our own choices and their consequences are worth a little risk.

When accidents occur, people often want to examine the details and motivations of an animal’s behavior to understand exactly what happened and why.  Careful investigation and analysis is a valuable process to allow us to improve our techniques and avoid needless future accidents, but in truth we can rarely know precisely why an animal behaved in a certain way.  In a very real sense, however, such speculative detail does not matter: whether the animals were attacking, trying to protect themselves, sexually aroused, responding in annoyance to excessive pressure or fear, or some other miscue, the stark truth is that any of these circumstances could have arisen with similar outcomes. Many animals are vastly more powerful than humans: given sufficient time, wherever humans and animals interact, injuries may occur.

People who argue against working with animals often assert that certain animals are “unpredictable,” a completely erroneous claim.  Each species, and each individual animal, is endowed with a well-established range of behaviors and rarely acts in conflict to these. Understanding and correctly predicting animal behavior is among the most basic challenges and responsibilities of any trainer.

Animals are often held accountable for their actions, a profoundly wrong conclusion: animals are not subject to “blame”: they always and simply act as animals, and people are responsible for minimizing situations in which harm might come to anyone.

Underlying the common reaction to traumatic animal incidents lurks a contemporary human expectation that the world should be “risk-free.” As human enterprise has relentlessly expanded, we have paved, denuded, and sanitized huge portions of the planet.  In virtually every populated environment, we have effectively eliminated any predator that might pursue us.  We fully expect handrails and padding and signs to protect us at all times. But nature cannot and should not be completely tamed. When we venture into the wilderness, or bring a piece of the wilderness into our world, we find that bears, wasps, mountains, skunks, waves, tigers, and orcas do not respect our notion of sovereignty and will behave as they have behaved since time immemorial.  Innate animal behavior is not amenable to human moralizing: it is neither good nor bad.  It is simply a truth that we must understand if we wish to interact with the natural world. Each day, millions of animals safely coexist with man.  Many visit schools, perform tricks, and lounge around.  For hundreds of shows, Roy’s tigers reliably came on stage and performed perfectly. Such numberless days of productive and enriching interaction cannot be forgotten as we scrutinize the day someone is injured.

Why is it that when people die in automobile accidents we do not seek to ban cars?   Or when people die on mountains we do not seek to outlaw mountain climbing; but whenever someone is injured by an animal there is such an outcry?  There are four reasons:

1.  Animal attacks are rare, which makes them dramatic and newsworthy.

2.  Few people actually work with animals or experience them firsthand: and it is much easier to blame, condemn, and legislate out of existence something you do not understand and that does not directly affect you.

3.  Over millions of years of evolution, hominids developed a powerful innate fear of being eaten.

4.  Human society is plagued by uninformed zealots always ready to twist any event to serve their purpose:

The loudest voices heard in the wake of traumatic animal incidents are those of Animal Rights advocates who aspire to outlaw all animal ownership and who seize any tragedy as an opportunity to chant their mindless rhetoric: “these animals ‘belong’ in the wild.  This death proves it…”   No.  By now every thoughtful reader should realize this is simply hogwash.  Nearly every species of animal can be superbly maintained in captivity where they are enabled to live rich lives that are longer and more comfortable than in the wild.  We can learn from such creatures and enjoy them and share them with millions of people – especially young people – who will grow to care about the natural world. These animals are not demeaned or mistreated and are not yearning for freedom. They have plenty of space, excellent nutrition and fabulous lives.  The only people who believe these animals have bad lives are people who have little experience with them and are forming their opinions based on uninformed sentimentality–people with genuine expertise quickly learn that these animals have excellent lives. The accidental death of a person who devoted herself to the well-being of captive orcas does not prove that orcas cannot be kept humanely, and the propagandists at PETA should be profoundly ashamed for using trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death to preach their own agenda, an agenda rejected and reviled by every thoughtful animal trainer.

As a professional working every day with powerful predators, I do not fear for my life; rather, I fear that should I be injured or killed by an animal, people who espouse “rights” but care nothing for actual animals will use such an event to harm the very animals I have spent my life cherishing.

We love these animals completely, even when their nature does not accommodate human society, and even when their actions harm us. They share their worlds with us, and in doing so bring immeasurable joy to our lives. We are afraid, not of them, but for them.  We want them to be preserved in the wild and in captivity by skilled and dedicated experts, and we want people to stop being enraged when they behave like animals.

All the lives of all the animal trainers ever lost working with animals is a number far smaller than the number of children who starved to death while you were reading this article.  Working with animals is safe and immeasurably beneficial for the humans and animals. If you really want to help someone, focus on providing food and healthcare to the millions of people who absolutely will perish without your help, and leave those of us who love animals to make our own well-informed decisions about how to balance our safety with our passions.

I am heading outside now to play with my beloved animal friends. I may make a mistake, and I may die. If so, please do not mourn the manner of my death.  Do not blame the animal. Do not imagine that I was an idiot, or naively unaware of what could happen, or thought myself invincible or protected by the animals’ love. It is the life and death I chose, and lived without regret. A lifetime full of joy, passion, and wonder shared with many magnificent animals whose lives were also full of joy. Whenever and however I die, I have been blessed to live my dream.

 March 28, 2010  Posted by at 8:18 pm
Mar 222010

Last week, arguing that orcas should not be kept in captivity, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk lamented that captive orcas are “swimming in their own diluted urine.”   A perfect metaphor for the insanity of Animal Rights: apparently she believes that wild orcas all use a giant toilet where they flush their urine away…

“Don’t be silly,” some may say, “in the ocean there is lots of room for the urine to dissipate whereas an aquarium is much smaller.”  This is emblematic of the sort of “facts-be-damned” thinking PETA endorses.  Simple truth: the water in any U.S. orca habitat is orders of magnitude cleaner than the water in the ocean.  It is filtered, UV sterilized, chemically balanced, and checked several times a day.

If you believe orca’s should not have to swim in dirty water containing dilute urine, by all means get them the heck out of the filthy ocean and into a clean aquarium…

In the same interview, Bob Barker explained that the enclosures orcas are kept in are equivalent to putting a human in a bathtub.  Really? When is the last time you were able to swim at full speed in your bathtub?  Dive many times your height below the water and then leap into the air more than twice your height?  Maybe in Bob Barker’s bathtub… Simple truth: orcas are kept in habitats costing tens of millions of dollars, their diets are superlative; and their exercise and enrichment plans among the best in the world. Cetologists and trainers at Sea World have been instrumental in protecting these animals in the wild and in captivity, and have provided more knowledge and funding to help orcas than almost anyone else in the world while also fostering interest and passion for these animals in tens of millions of children. Bravo!

Mr. Barker also spoke about how “demeaning” it is for an animal to have to perform tricks for the entertainment of humans.  This is absurd. An animal learns a behavior and it does that behavior and receives praise and reward.  This exercises their bodies and their minds, and is in no way demeaning to the animal.  Animals make no value judgments about whether doing a flip befits their social standing—they simply do the behavior and have a great time. It is a game, one that they play in the wild as well, and one they can stop anytime they want. Perhaps Mr. Barker is simply projecting his life onto the animals—he DID spend his life performing in front of the masses in exchange for a great deal of money which he now seems determined to spend ruining the lives of as many animals as possible.

HSUS is now lobbying to have Tilikum the orca released to the wild.  They want to repeat the Keiko adventure which generated many donations.  You remember Keiko, the orca who was taken at great expense from his nice Oregon enclosure where he was healthy and happy and turned loose into the wild where he pined away for months following boats and swimming into bays looking for any friend who would feed him fish and rub his belly as he remembered from his days in captivity. Until he finally died with pneumonia, starving and lonely.    Yes, let’s do that again! Because animals deserve to be in the wild…

 March 22, 2010  Posted by at 12:54 am