Date: August 6th, 2007

The Newsweek site has a web-exclusive commentary by Rabbi Marc Gellman, headed, "Tiger, Tiger Why it’s time to reconsider the whole notion of putting wild animals in zoos."

It is rare to see such a sensitive piece about animal captivity.

Gellman tells us that his grandfather was a zookeeper. He writes:
"He would patiently explain to me that they did not want to be in their cages but that we put them there so that little boys like me could see up close what they look like, how they move and what sounds they make. Grandpa explained to me that this was a deal we humans made with the wild animals of the world. We capture and display some of them so that people would feel something for them and protect the wild animals that were not in cages. I asked grandpa if he thought the deal was fair. He thought and said, 'It's a good deal for us, and not such a good deal for them.' I still think grandpa was right."

"...The deal my Grandpa Lepa explained to me is a hard deal for the animals, and I am not sure how much longer we ought to defend it."

He notes: "The animals in zoos do not behave like their wild cousins. They mostly mope around..." and he asks, "Do zoos increase environmental consciousness and thus help to protect the habitats of other wild animals?" and answers "I don't think so."

Of particular interest is his comment on Knut the famous polar bear cub. Animal Rights activists got a bad rap when one activist suggested that Knut would be better off dead and should be euthanized, and the press enjoyed presenting that as the general animal rights position. I certainly wasn't calling for the killing of Knut! But nor did I delight in the stories about him and his cuteness, so I appreciate Rabbi Gellman's thoughtful comments on the matter:
"There is a cute little polar bear cub in the Berlin zoo named Knut who is a huge attraction. The zoo recently announced that the little show in which Knut frolics with a zookeeper would be stopped because Knut was becoming too big and too aggressive. In time the crowds will go away, but Knut will still be there in his cage, his wildness, his very essence, now a public-relations liability."

You can read the whole thoughtful piece on line at:

And please, most importantly, if you appreciate the sentiments then give the article a five star rating at the bottom of the page. Newsweek keeps track and links to the most highly rated articles.

My thanks to Tracie Russell for making sure we saw this piece.

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

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Date: Mon Aug 6 21:17:27 2007

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