Inquirer metro columnist John Grogan’s topic today is Marianne Bessey, an animal rights activist who has been bugging the Philadelphia Zoo to release its elephants from captivity. Bessey is knowledgeable in her subject matter, having studied elephants and traveled to Zimbabwe to watch them in their habitat, as Grogan mentions.
This portion of Grogan’s column describes what’s at the basis of Bessey’s disagreement with the zoo:
Last year she began badgering zoo officials to release the four elephants to the sanctuary where they could live closer to how nature intended. So far, the idea has gone nowhere.Wait a minute.
She's particularly frustrated over the fate of Dulary, a 42-year-old female with an injury that has kept her inside a concrete barn since August.
"It's like putting your child in a closet for the rest of their life," she said.
As her frustration grew, she posted a message earlier this month on an online chat room known as the Elephant Connection. In it, she wished that Philadelphia Zoo Director Alexander L. "Pete" Hoskins might experience what it would be like to be "kept in a concrete closet for six months to hasten [his] demise."
"My frustration just boiled over," she said.
What she didn't know was that zoo officials were monitoring the chat room (your donor dollars at work), and they filed a police complaint against her, apparently on the theory that her comments were not-quite-but-almost-sort-of a little like a death threat.
A threat, but to what?
Now, we can't have death-threatening eco-terrorists at a family attraction, right? And so the activist was banned from zoo property.
Remind me again who's acting with extreme hysteria?
The zoo files a complaint against Bessey – a lawyer who should know the consequences of threatening someone’s life, especially in written form…and yes, that is DEFINITELY what she did – but THEY are acting with extreme hysteria?
Hey, I’ve been to the Zoo and seen the elephants also. Yes, they are proud, majestic creatures. Yes, they probably should be allowed to “roam free” (which begs the question of where, exactly: Belmont Plateau? Valley Forge National Park? Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies' home opener?). But does the fact that they’re in captivity merit a death threat against the director of the Philadelphia Zoo?
Besides, suppose the zoo knew of what Bessey said but ignored it, and then she shows up one day, flips out, and starts shooting the animals and paying customers? Yes, I know that’s a very unlikely scenario, but if I were running a non-profit institution with the high profile of The Philadelphia Zoo, you’d better believe that I would be thinking about that if I heard about what Bessey said. I don’t see that “Pete” Hoskins, the Zoo’s director, was out of line at all to ban Bessey from zoo property.
And here’s another thing for Grogan to consider; he went ballistic months ago against PA State Representative Daylin Leach over some off-color comments at Leach’s blog, as we may remember. Where is the same sense of outrage over Bessey’s remarks? Go ahead and kill someone, but just don’t make juvenile comments about their sexuality, right?
(Note: This doesn't link to Grogan's column but the original Inquirer news story instead - at the time, I didn't link to Grogan's original column because you had to register, but I realized later that I couldn't keep doing that.)
Instead of looking into the “deep, knowing eyes” of the Philadelphia Zoo’s elephants, I think Grogan ought to take a deep, knowing look at himself in the mirror and see if he detects the same trunk full of hypocrisy that I do.
Update 10/06/06: In additon to this development, the Asian elephant Dulary will be moved to a sanctuary in Tennessee (can't find a link yet).
Update 03/06/07: According to this report, the elephants will be moved by June.