An e-mail acquaintance of mine is at Harvard this year, on a Nieman Fellowship (Ivy League school, not as much food, I’d wager), studying the evolving moral code of how we deal with animals. Fate handed her a big fat case study with the mauling of Roy (of Siegfried and, etc.) by his own white tiger.
You know, I’m a person who’s kept a horse, who has a dog, who eats meat and doesn’t get bent ouf of shape over hunting, and yet…I hate circuses. I mean, I hate them. A lot. Zoos? No problem. But making a tiger jump through a hoop, or a bear dance on its hind legs? I always root for the animal to take a swipe at the trainer. I just hate seeing this. It seems entirely unnatural. A horse is a domestic animal, and running and jumping is part of its nature, so asking it to jump a fence seems like part of its job. But a tiger is a wild animal, and asking it to leap around a series of stools while some sequined putz cracks a whip strikes me as, oh, real unnecessary.
Not that what happened to Roy is a blow for animal rights. Nothing good is going to happen to that tiger. I only hope that in my lifetime, we’ll come to a more humane place in our dealings with animals. Especially wild ones.