Petting zoo teaches love to animals or consumer relations?


In summer the news spread around Minsk, that the first petting zoo called "Raccoon’s Country " had opened in the shopping center "Titan". The team of our Center could not ignore the emerging in the capital of such institution.


We must say that petting zoo is not a new phenomenon, similar commercial establishments, where they already exist, such as in Russia, have a very negative reputation.
























So, in late summer, our team decided to visit that place to see everything with our own eyes, and to confirm or deny our fears. The first on what we caught ourselves thinking, that was the place where the petting zoo - a huge shopping and entertainment complex, which was clearly not conducive to familiarizing people to ethical and ecological lifestyle. But with the flow of potential customers here all right.























Upon entering the petting zoo you are offered to dress overshoes. At the same time, no one controls  if you have washed your hands or not, that may already trigger the spread of infections in animals. There is also offer the services of feeding for a fee in the form of a small plastic bag with fresh vegetables. When you come into petting zoo, immediately feel the smell, it is not too intense, but still. And most importantly - a high level of noise from the screaming children, it is strong enough even for a human ear, not to mention the more sensitive ear of animals. The bulk of the animals are located in small yards on the filings with the opening gates. Some - in small boxes, about waist-4-year old child high, so that children can easily take the animals in their hands straight out of the boxes. Others sit in closed cells.

























So, what we have witnessed? The first thing that caught our eyes, it was lying in state forgetful rabbits. They settled near the walls of the aviary, and closed their eyes, silent, occasionally twitching foot. The children periodically approached and tried to pet or feed the motionless bodies. Obviously, the level of this institution visitors attention, stress, poor animals test on themselves, apear to be transcendent for their sensitive nervous systems. As for the goats, then they fare better. Firstly, they are bigger, and secondly, they are domestic and herd animals. But, they have been constantly stuffered with vegetables and pulled the ears not been able to hide somewhere from importunate and annoying visitors.

























Moving on, we came across a ferret, his poerless body hung at the hands of an employee. The smell of urine was coming from ferret and it was evident that to maintain systematic contact therapy as to stretch a body was not easy. As for the deer and parrots in the closed cells, and the pony, which so quickly frisked in a yard that her visitors were afraid to enter the yard, they were lucky, because they escaped that contact animal-assisted therapy, though they had to endure all the noise in the zoo. But all was not rosy with them as we first thought: a month after our visit to a petting zoo, zoo staff told us that the deer had died from improper feeding.

























The position of guinea pigs and hamsters appears to be of special note. They are located in the middle of the room, contact with them is available to most children. We have seen how squealing children  grabbed guinea pigs for the body and tried to drink the animal sharply, almost vertically, tilted them to the drinking bowl, dipping them to water with a head. Naturally, this is an incredible stress for a guinea pig. However, staff reacted to such pranks of children and prevented such actions. Hedgehogs albino, rolled themselves into a ball, clearly demonstrated by all their appearances, to be left alone. But their opinion and the right to a decent life, in that case were not taken into account at all. After all, they are the goods, the product which has already paid. So, visitors got out of boxes those hedgehogs  in a rolled state at a bright light, poked fingers and popped into the mouth vegetables. What hedgehog? Hedgehog had no choice but to be in a protective posture. Trying to somehow escape from all that bright light and noise, he continued to lie on the hands in a protective pose. Hedgehogs - nocturnal animals, they live in the quiet forests, glades, for them the gloom and silence - a natural pattern of life.

























So, what conclusions can we draw from what we saw?


Has somebody  taken into account the interests and rights of animals exploited in a petting zoo? Why wild animals are placed in unnatural conditions for them, in violation of their natural rights to live in the wild, the right of reproduction, the right to freedom. Second, it is a question of damage the health of animals, causing them pain and discomfort. While petting zoo managing staff , actively using the media, is trying to convince people otherwise. But all this in words without concrete evidence submitted to publicity. Exposure to noise, bright light, the contact for a long time give a negative effect on the health of the animals. If we are told that animals periodically are interchanged for a break in certain specific areas, the following questions arise who and how determines that it is time to replace an animal? The criterion is that an animal has already experienced the stress and load? Really when an animal is just falling down ?! Next, and what are the rest rooms? Are they spacious, ventilated, isolated from external noise and vibration? After all, it's shopping centers, there is a very expensive rent, and the extra square footage - is, first of all, the extra costs for businesses, which is the network of a petting zoo. For the higher income spendings are cutting. Separately we want to say about feeding of the animals. Overfeeding is a fact in a petting zoo! It is difficult for animals to control themselves and at a constant offer of food they will overeat. Again, the verbal assurances that every animal is under control in terms of food intake cause great doubt how it will be done in practice? Who and how determines when an animal is fed? Perhaps when an animal has already overfed?! Another aspect what happens to animals after they grow up? Most of the animals in the zoo - young, it is understandable: they are less aggressive, more attractive, smaller. Young animals grow rapidly and staff needs to do something with these already adult animals, saying on the language of business - to dispose, after the loss of the marketable condition and quality.

























The answer to this question is not clear, someone somewhere takes them and what happens to them afterwards?


- In the press much is said about what a great educational importance petting zoo has for children, - says Ludmila Loginovskaya, the Director of the Center for the Ethical Attitude Towards Nature. - But, unfortunately, we have to state that the places where animals are kept in unnatural conditions, subjected to constant physical contact with people, are constantly in a state of stress, teach the children to consumer attitudes to the natural world, forming in them selfishness, permissiveness and indifference to the suffering of living creatures. Children attending such institutions, whether the circus, dolphinarium, zoos, and even more so a petting zoo, start to treat animals as toys, not as living beings who have their own interests, needs, ability to feel pain, both physical and mental. To foster respect of a child to animals, it is absolutely not necessary to gather all the animals from around the world, with different biological rhythm in one place, and it is enough to show animals in their natural habitat: watch documentaries on wildlife, visit reserves but if you really want something unusual - welcome to the photo safari. But for special animal lovers, who  so need bodily contact with the four-legged beings, my advice - set up an four-legged friend! So many unhappy abandoned animals, cats and dogs dream to find their home and a loving caring owner!


Thus, the reaction of citizens to a petting zoo - a kind of indicator of moral culture in a society that determines the ability to navigate in the new system of "green" morality, distinguish good from evil, acceptable from unacceptable.


In fact, a petting zoo for Belarus - a new phenomenon. We have not inherited them as circuses or usual zoos. And if this shameful and unethical practice takes root in our society or not, depends on the good will of the citizens, which means each of us!




The author: Maxim Rylkov