The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter
Selected Articles from our
Fall 2011 Issue
Why Jack Hanna Supported the Zanesville Animal Massacre
Michael Mountain of
Zoe gave permission
to reprint his excellent article.
It was reported that this lion was trying to hide when he was gunned
Photo by Fred Polks, Jr. and shown on ABC news website: http://abcnews.go.com
Whenever there’s a potential danger to the animal captivity industry, you
can bank on Jack Hanna showing up on TV in a funny hat, looking like he’s
just back from saving animals in the jungles of Africa.
Hanna, the “director emeritus” of Ohio’s Columbus Zoo, is chief shill for
the industry, which includes zoos, marine circuses, exotic animal importers
and breeders, and the many other promoters of animals for entertainment.
When killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by orca Tilikum last
year, Hanna was on TV within minutes. But he wasn’t there to put SeaWorld on
the hot seat; rather to mount an urgent defense of the multi-billion-dollar
corporation that would soon after be cited by the federal government’s
Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for “willful neglect.”
This week, instead of jumping in to protect the animals who’d been set
loose to fend for themselves by the criminal Terry Thompson in Zanesville …
instead of saying that it would be wrong for law enforcement officers to
launch into a massacre of the lions, tigers, bears and others … instead of
standing firmly for saving the lives of these innocent animals … what does
Hanna do? He steps forward to advocate the mass shooting.
Why? Because for people like Hanna, it’s never about protecting the
animals; it’s always about protecting the industry.
Hanna’s immediate calculation was based on how to minimize damage to the
captivity and entertainment business. The last thing he wants is a
long-drawn-out series of news reports focusing on danger to his potential
customers. The last thing he wants is the possibility of stories of lions
chasing people through the woods or down the streets. Get the whole thing
over with that same night, swallow the bad news, and be back on Leno and
Letterman as quickly as possible with cute baby sloths and exotic kitties to
woo people back to the zoo.
The exotic animal business is bad news for animals in every way – from
roadside zoos through reptile stores to circuses and marine “parks” to
high-end zoos. Sure, some of them may be better than others, but they’re all
basically in the business of entertaining people – with some occasional good
works thrown in to protect their reputation. The regulation of these outfits
is left primarily to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which is
not a watchdog but a trade association that’s bought and paid for by the
When it comes to exotic animals, the state of Ohio, where Hanna’s zoo is
located, has some of the loosest regulations in the country. Ironically, it
can be harder to have a pit bull in Ohio than to have a tiger, bear or
What could have been done
If Hanna had cared about the animals, what could he have done instead of
urging the sheriff’s department to kill them?
First, put out an emergency curfew to keep humans and their pets indoors,
and have police patrols out to enforce the rule. Round up wildlife experts
and trappers from across the country, and get them on the job fast. Have the
AZA and its zoos offer to pay for the operation. Most important, take the
killing option off the table except in the unlikely case (the animals had
all been fed) that someone is actually being eaten by a tiger. And finally,
when the animals have been rescued, put all the resources of the AZA on the
side of getting them out to sanctuaries, or at least to the best zoos in the
country, so they can have the best life possible for the rest of their days
after the miserable existence they’ve been living at the appalling
encampment of the criminal Terry Thompson.
But no, that would all have drawn too much attention for too long a time
to the dark side of the captivity industry.
Plus, it would have raised questions, once again, about the whole
practice of locking nonhuman animals up for the sole purpose of entertaining
their captors and audiences.
Take a lesson from the no-kill movement
The Hanna/zoo response to a situation like Zanesville is similar in
essence to how the humane movement used to respond to the so-called “pet
Twenty years ago, when 17 million dogs and cats were being killed in
so-called “shelters” every year, the explanation by the people who ran these
operations was very simply: “We have no choice but to kill them … it’s very
sad … but it’s a necessary evil … there are no alternatives.”
But the simple fact was that none of the people who talked like this were
ever really looking for alternatives to killing. It was only when the infant
no-kill movement stood up and said it was morally bankrupt for “shelters”
and “humane” organizations to be killing the perfectly healthy, adoptable
animals in their care that things began to change. Only when, one by one,
communities around the country agreed to take killing off the table did the
wealth of other possibilities come to the surface – spay/neuter and adoption
programs, volunteers and foster homes, and then state laws that helped curb
the mass killing of homeless pets.
As long as killing remains an option, be it for pets or wildlife, it will
always be the first option – the easy way out.
People like Jack Hanna, who present themselves as guardians of wildlife,
need to stand up for life, not death.
Zoe is the new venture of Michael Mountain, past president and cofounder
of Best Friends Animal Society. In the early 1990s, Best Friends — the
nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals — became the
flagship of the new no-kill movement. At that time, more than 15 million
dogs and cats were being killed in shelters every year, and the prevailing
wisdom was that this was simply a “necessary evil” for which there was no
As founding editor of Best Friends magazine and then www.bestfriends.org,
Michael pioneered the campaign to save homeless pets, driving a grassroots
no-kill movement that would transform the humane establishment. By the end
of the 1990s, the number of pets being killed in shelters had dropped to
below 5 million annually. Today, Best Friends and other humane societies
across the country continue their work to bring that number to zero.
Please visit http://www.zoenature.org/
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