ALMOST everyone seems to be smitten with the brand new baby elephant born at Melbourne zoo on Saturday, but is this really such a 'happy' event?
Oh I know, all babies are a source of joy and I'm sure Dokkoon will love her new little daughter, but the reality is that Dokkoon's baby, like her mother, now faces a lifetime of imprisonment and deprivation for nothing but human enjoyment. Hardly a fairytale scenario.
Education is often quoted as a reason for locking animals up in zoos but with the large number of excellent documentaries readily available these days, one can hardly claim that it is necessary to see live animals in order to learn about them.
We are, in fact, more likely to learn about the lives of animals from viewing documentaries such as the excellent ones made by David Attenborough than by visiting zoos.
In these institutions, what we see are animals who are stressed from close confinement, lack of privacy, mental stimulation and physical exercise. What we are really viewing is abnormal behaviour known as 'zoochosis.'
Conservation of endangered animals is another reason currently touted as justification for retaining zoos, but clearly, the best way to ensure the survival of other species is to help preserve their natural habitat and support other groups who work to do this.
Even if confinement in a zoo was the only way to conserve a species, isn't this 'conservation' concept more for our own selfish reasons than for theirs?
If a species was to die out tomorrow it would not concern the individual animal one iota. All that any animal wants, like us, is to be free and live a normal life.
In their natural environment elephants live in families or groups and walk hundreds of kilometres, yet we casually lock them up in concrete cages, heartlessly depriving them of their natural way of life and desires.
When they choose not to breed in this abnormal captive environment we trick them by artificially inseminating them and then we force their offspring to endure this sad, unnatural life too.
And why is it that the public is so enamoured with this particular animal baby yet they scarcely give a thought to the thousands of other animal babies born in captivity?
Do those who are smitten with this beautiful 'bundle of joy' give a thought to the millions of other bundles of joy who are equally adorable yet cruelly subjected to painful mutilations and death because they are born into a different prison system - the food industry system?
I'm sure the fluffy, baby male chicks bred by the egg industry are equally beautiful yet they are callously dropped live into industrial mincing machines simply because they cannot produce eggs.
Baby calves, I've no doubt, are just as entrancing but who cares about them or the fact that they are ripped from their mothers side when barely 24 hours of age and sent away to be slaughtered so that their milk can be sold for humans?
Yes, Dokkoon's baby is certainly adorable, but so too are all the other mothers' babies. Surely it is the birth right of all of them to live a natural life free from oppression.
_ Jenny Moxham is a Melbourne-based animal rights activist.