Sun, Sep 16, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Animal parks are making children cruel, group says

FREAK SHOW:Footage from a number of leisure farms shows animals being forced to perform tricks, which sends out the wrong message, campaigners have said

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A monkey is pictured in a cage in an undated photo. The Life Conservationist Association yesterday urged adults and teachers to stop giving the wrong life education to children by taking them to animal shows or exhibitions that it said are in fact practices of animal cruelty.

Photo provided courtesy of the Life Conservationist Association

The Life Conservationist Association (LCA) yesterday urged people to stop giving children inappropriate ideas about how to treat animals by taking them to animal shows or exhibitions that in fact practice cruelty against animals, during a press conference organized by the group in Taipei.

The association showed footage and photographs of animals being forced to perform stunts in order to entertain people at recreational farms, including making miniature pigs jump into ponds and race through loops of fire, forcing monkeys to walk upside-down along a narrow plank and fishing for toads in a pond and then handling them and taking photographs.

“Many animals are being hurt or even sacrificed for the amusement of human beings,” said LCA secretary-general Shih Chuan-fa (釋傳法), adding that in order to understand the situation in Taiwan, the association filmed the animals at several leisure farms nationwide where they had uncovered widespread animal abuse while being called environmental or life education.

The association urged the public to avoid the “touching, riding, feeding and fishing” of animals as well as urging the farms to avoid forcing animals into “inhumane displays and forced performances” given that this can cause harm to the animals while also providing bad examples for children on how to treat animals.

“There is a gap between the recognition of animal protection and the actual practice of protecting them,” said Kurtis Pei (裴家騏), a professor at National Pingtung University’s Institute of Wildlife Preservation.

While many people say that animal cruelty is wrong, they often find it hard to resist the urge to touch or applaud animals on display, he added.

“Most of the animals are in a state of fear when they are being handled by humans, because in their natural environment they are only touched by other animals when they are captured,” Pei said, adding that people often mistakenly believe that patting or caressing an animal is a way to show love and friendliness, but the truth is that the death rate at zoos and leisure farms remain high.

Direct contact with animals may also cause disease to pass between animals and humans, such as the case of an orangutan kept at a leisure farm which was recently diagnosed as having tuberculosis after it was sent to the Pingtung Rescue Center for Endangered Wild Animals for a health test, Pei said.

Lai Wei-jen (賴威任), office director of the Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation, said that confining whales and dolphins in small pools, such as those seen at sea parks, often causes a decline in their echolocation abilities while also increasing the possibility of disease .

Liu Shiang-yao (劉湘瑤), an associate professor at National Taiwan Normal University’s Graduate Institute of Science Education, said footage which showed adults forcing a scared boy to pat a baby crocodile with its mouth taped up while complimenting the “brave” boy was obviously a distorted way to teach children about respect for living beings and wildlife conservation.

“What are we teaching the children by tying up a baby animal that we fear and then claiming victory by taming or torturing it?” she asked.

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