In a fear-inducing and wildly exaggerated article — even for Fox News standards — the media company published an attack on animal rights groups, characterizing them as aggressive, irrational extremists and ignoring the varied nature and scope of such groups as well as the nuanced existences and vulnerabilities of animals.
Referencing SeaWorld’s recent move to end orca performances and breeding programs, Fox frames the article as a warning, leading with, “Fresh off a victory over SeaWorld and its controversial orca program, animal rights groups are zeroing in on zoos, aquariums and circuses — and one prominent expert warns your dog and cat could be next.”
Quoted heavily, Fox’s “prominent expert” was Jack Hanna, who has made a living off of the infotainment of animals as host of the show Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo.
No one is coming after your pets
Hanna stated, “Animal rights activists believe all animals, including your dog or cat, should have the same rights as people and be free; therefore they shouldn’t be in human care under any circumstances.” Fox ran with this, making it part of the headline as well as a pull quote and photo caption, even though it has no basis in fact.
Animal advocate groups would never recommend household pets be set out into the wild as most would have no way to survive. The massive gulf between wild animals and domesticated cats and dogs has evolved over thousands of years, placing an increased responsibility on humans to take good care of them. PETA’s states their position on pets on their website:
In addition, there are countless animal advocates like the Humane Society and yes, even PETA, that are dedicated to the wellbeing and adoption of pets.
And though Fox made it seem like animal rights groups are some sort of radical empire, with an agenda to destroy zoos and terrorize pet owners, the focus of these groups is varied in scope and mission. For example, organizations like Farm Sanctuary, the National Anti-Vivisection Society, and World Wildlife Federation are never mentioned in Fox’s article. These, along with hundreds of others, have no objective to target pet owners or zoos.
Wild animals are worth saving
Once again quoted by Fox as an expert, Jack Hanna states, “the only places I consider truly wild are Antarctica, parts of the Amazon and some places in Africa.” Unlike Hanna claims, there is a significant amount of wilderness and animals who roam freely left. In the United States alone 13.9% of total land is protected: national and state forests and parks, designated wildernesses, and marine areas. Around the world tigers still roam, elephants still dominate landscapes, and thousands of species remain to be discovered. To turn our backs on the needs of wild creatures by conserving their remaining natural homes in preference of zoos would be a death sentence.
Animals need advocates
With no voices of their own, who is to tell the story of a captive orca whale, an elephant forced to do tricks, or a factory farm chicken? Sometimes the truth lies behind walls and closed doors, other times it lies behind a cheery facade or exciting showmanship, other times it isn’t clear at all, no matter at what angle you’re looking. Animals kept or bred in captivity lead unnatural lives and are often malnourished, stressed, and bored. Unlike sanctuaries, where an animal’s wellbeing is top priority, traditional zoos are for-profit institutions with a goal of making money. Advocates take the time to find out what goes on behind the scenes and inform the public. Individuals can then make informed decisions about where to spend their time and money. This in turn will influence change, just like at SeaWorld.