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Exhibiting humane behavior

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
April 17, 2001

 

As controversial as the decision may appear,the City of Encinitas has expanded it's understanding of ethical responsibility. Making a small leap of compassion,the city council, is poised to ban the practice of exhibiting wild and exotic animals in the City of Encinitas. Granted City Council members are split on the issue, but even those opposed to the ban have valid reservations deserving of serious consideration.

If the truth be told, this ban affects few in Encinitas. Circuses don't come to Encinitas, nor is there a municipal zoo, aquarium, big game farm, or rodeos. More bark than bite, the action only formalizes a pre-existing trend away from less enlightened forms of entertainment. Those who oppose such progressive ordinances do so from economic self interest, nothing else.

Exploitation as entertainment is still exploitation. As mammals ourselves you would think we would understand this by now. It wasn't so long ago humans enslaved each other out of a similar sense of superiority and entitlement. Thankfully a council majority,when confronted with the issue, could see past the false altruism of those using animals for personal gain.

I realize some people would attribute the new ordinance to council members "being hijacked by radical animal rights activists," that is simply untrue. What really happened was members of the Rancho Coastal Humane Society and San Diego Animal Advocates approached the city and asked thatan ordinance banning certain forms of animals exploitation be prohibited. Similar ordinances are currently being enacted across the country.

The use of animals for educational purposes is a bit murkier. The debate is not about whether or not children should have access to inter-species interactions, the question is at what point does education become exploitation. Also in question is what lessons are being taught by denying these animals the right to exist on their own terms. Lemurs in the classroom does not equate with lemurs in the wild. Nor does traveling animal acts equate with education, or intent and tax status with quality instruction.

Hopefully this is only the beginning of a comprehensive assessment of what constitutes an ethical education. Many believe non domesticated animals can play an important role in the education of school age children, others contend the harm out weighs the good.

Looking beyond the obvious drama pitting compassion against commerce is the larger issue of a city taking on politically incorrect inquiries. The residents of Encinitas should be commended for engaging on a philosophical level, while questioning a status quo that clings to "the might makes right" approach to life. Progress is never easy, but without it we would still be calling for carnage in coliseums, hungry for the suffering of others.

Taking the lead in fostering a biocentric approach to what is and isn't acceptable regarding animals in the community,Encinitas residents are once again proving themselves to be ahead of the environmental learning curve. Calling for the humane treatment of wild and exotic animals, an ordinance limiting the display of these captive entertainers can only bode well for the treatment ofdomestic pets and live stock.

Knowing the debate is far from overI suggest the people of Encinitas stay the course, keeping the conversation firmly rooted in intellectual integrity while refraining from name calling, fear mongering, and to quote Councilman Jerome Stocks, "Throwing the baby out with the bath water."

 
 
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