Editorial: Remembering the aim

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1995:

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it,” George Santyana
observed of would-be world-changers circa 1905. “Fanaticism,” he added, “consists in
redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”
He was half right. As sociologist Bill Moyer illustrates, reform movements fol-
low a certain cyclical course, willy-nilly. The three great movements for animals have each
closely followed Moyer’s Movement Action Plan trajectory, beginning in the U.S. just after
the Civil War, when the humanitarian focus shifted from abolishing slavery. After Henry
Bergh founded the American SPCA in 1869, the first U.S. humane group with an explicit
mandate to defend animals, other animal-focused humane societies and antivivisection
societies formed in every major city, until humane momentum shifted again, toward abol-
ishing child labor, instituting orphanages, and introducing temperance.

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Editorials: Doing wolves no favors

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1995:

Experts estimate the world wolf population never exceeded 500,000. Humans
have had wolves outnumbered and on the run since Neanderthal times. Those who couldn’t
be killed were pushed into the most inhospitable corners of the globe––for if there’s one
thing a human hunter can’t stand, it’s the idea that something else might kill his game, his
livestock, perhaps even his family if he fails to “keep the wolf from the door.”
If there’s another thing hunters hate about wolves, it’s the reminder wolves con-
vey that predatory skills and a strict dominance hierarchy do not equate with fitness for sur-
vival in the human-made world. Most fears about wolves are unfounded––North American
wolves have never eaten people––but to your average hunter no other animal so symbolizes
male inadequacy. The men with guns are now more frightened than ever. In Alaska, gov-
ernor Tony Knowles on February 4 made permanent his December 3 suspension of prede-
cessor Walter Hickel’s campaign to kill wolves in order to make more moose and caribou
available to human hunters in the region southwest of Fairbanks. In Yellowstone, the like-
lihood that wolves will soon thin out an estimated 60,000 elk, 30,000 deer, and 4,000
bison, after a 60-year absence, deals a political blow to the hope of the hunting lobby that
they might open the National Parks to hunting––the only federal lands that now exclude
hunting, and therefore the last refuge of many beasts with trophy-sized horns.

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Editorial: Handling the money crunch

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1995:

It is axiomatic in fundraising that half the dollars raised by any campaign come
from the ten biggest donors––the coveted “high donors,” whose gifts not only finance good
works, but also permit the quest for additional donors. Even in charity, it takes money to
make money, and without a lump sum to invest in printing and postage, nonprofits have no
means of appealing to the small donors who provide the other half of their support.
High donors are an endangered species this winter, a phenomenon remarked
across the charitable spectrum. From animal shelters and sanctuaries to veterinary schools
and zoos, administrators tell us more people are chipping in, but total donations are down
because big gifts haven’t come. We’re seeing the same thing in the otherwise encouraging
response to our own holiday appeal. And we’re hearing from apologetic former high donors,
including some foundations, that the reasons they’re not giving as much as before have
nothing to do with our work: they’re just tapped out. Economic uncertainty accompanying
the change of political power in Washington D.C. brought a sharp pre-holiday slump in the
money markets, both hurting private investors and cutting into the residuals from which
foundations make grants. People in government jobs are anxious to see how projected cost-
cutting and restructuring will affect them––and this doesn’t just involve federal employees.
As responsibility for the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the disabled is returned to states
and municipalities, state and local budgets will also be restructured. That in turn affects
still more people, including employees of firms that sell to government.

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Editorial: Where our money goes

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1994:

Our fifth annual report on “Who gets the money?” starts on page 11 of this issue.
Once again you may be shocked and dismayed to discover the extent to which the purported
“program expenses” of many of the biggest and best-known organizations are actually direct
mail costs written off as “public education.” Indeed, some such organizations have few if any
programs beyond direct mail. We view this as an abuse of public trust.
We stress accountability at ANIMAL PEOPLE––and we practice what we preach.
We don’t just tell you our “investigations department” is working on this or that: you see our
original investigative coverage of all the news about animal protection, ten times a year.
Like other animal protection charities, we exist through your concern and your gen-
erosity. Your generosity is critically important, because while your paid subscriptions and
advertising cover most of the cost of printing and mailing ANIMAL PEOPLE, your personal
gifts support our information-gathering. Your donations make possible our calls and faxes to
the people in the know––or who ought to be in the know––wherever animals need help. Often
it’s our call seeking information on your behalf that gets both authorities and animal advocacy
groups moving in response to situations that might otherwise be pushed aside.

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Editorial: The fallacy of “progressive” legislation

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1994:

Animal and habitat protection advocates breathed relief on October 7 as Russia
withdrew an objection to the May 1994 creation of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary by
the International Whaling Commission. Under IWC rules, the objection meant that Russia,
already holding an objection to the whaling moratorium in effect since 1986, could have
gone whaling at any time––within the sanctuary. Despite the instant claim of Greenpeace
and the International Fund for Animal Welfare that the latest Russian turnabout was all their
doing, the full story behind the reversals may take years to emerge. Yet somehow the ele-
ments in Russian politics who seek good trade relations with the rest of the world did tri-
umph over those who would prefer a return to the stagnant but secure isolation of the Cold
War. Ultimately, the threat of private boycotts carried more weight in Moscow than the
certainty of escaping trade sanctions through the loophole in the IWC treaty.

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Editorial: Humane is for humanity

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1994:

The Roman Catholic Church recently published a new Catechism, an event of
importance to more than one billion people worldwide, about 19% of the global human
population, because the Catechism is the reference that governs the daily conduct of devout
Catholics, interpreting everyday situations in accordance with what the Church believes to
be divine will.
Like secular law, the Catechism is founded largely on precedent, derived from a
combination of codified dictate and ajudication. As the instrument of an institution whose
practical purpose is conserving moral order, the Catechism cannot be expected to break
abruptly from tradition to tell the faithful that most must radically change their lives. Even
small changes are therefore noteworthy. Such a small change comes in Passage 2415,
which extends moral consideration to animals, plants, and habitat. “The Seventh
Commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation,” it asserts. “The use of mineral,
plant, and animal resources cannot be separated from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s
dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is
regulated by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor including generations to come; it
requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”

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Editorial: Table manners

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1994:

In 1987 the Iowa state legislature created the Iowa State University Bioethics
Institute, with a mandate to study the ethical issues involved in farming––and to prepare
ISU College of Agriculture graduates to meet the evolving ethical requirements of the gen-
eral public. Central to the ISUBI program is an annual week-long seminar for ISU scientific
researchers, at which all meals are vegetarian.
ISUBI has not forgotten where its funding comes from. Iowa is in fact more eco-
nomically dependent upon animal agriculture than any other state. Of the 36 million acres
of land surface in Iowa, 61% are used to grow fodder crops, while 11.4% of the private
workforce in Iowa is employed, directly or indirectly, by the cattle and hog industries.
Promoting vegetarianism is not an ISUBI objective. Yet ISUBI considers introducing farm-
ers and scientists to vegetarianism essential, because for a variety of ethical and health-
related reasons, it is an increasingly popular lifestyle that they must understand and reckon
with. Farmers and scientists who do not appreciate the reality of vegetarianism will not be
well-equipped to make important ethical and economic judgements. ISUBI therefore prac-
tices temporary immersion in vegetarianism much as foreign language seminars practice
immersion in the cultures of other nations.

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EDITORIAL: Nailing down boards

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1994:

Three outstanding executive directors of humane societies were ousted last month
due to board politics. All three are nationally noted authorities on various aspects of
humane management. One was forced into retirement after 25 years on the job for alleged
fundraising failures in a city hit by three disasters during the past two years. Another,
known for turning deficient shelters around, was apparently fired from his third such effort
because the board didn’t like his ultimatum to either help or quit. The third individual lasted
barely six months in his first top job, after a distinguished career as a second-in-command,
because he apparently didn’t realize that the most important duty of most executive directors
is not management of the work to be done but rather management of the board.
Unfortunately, the above paragraph, with minor variations, could be written
almost every month. Only the number of people fired and their lengths of tenure change.
Curiously, none of the people fired last month were in the midst of building a new shelter.
That’s an almost surefire ticket to ouster, since the additional fundraising and the letting of
construction contracts multiplies the opportunities for executive conflict with board mem-
bers. A frequent result of changing executive directors in mid-building effort is that con-
tractual specifications are modified, or supervision is neglected, or both, resulting in cost
overruns and defective facilities. Witness the American SPCA, whose new shelter was sup-
posed to cost $2.9 million when longtime chief executive John Kullberg was booted out in
1991; it actually cost $5 million when opened a little more than one year later; and it still
needs an estimated $400,000 in improvements to meet humane standards. The blame for the
ASPCA fiasco can be cut many ways––we’ve been told by people who should know that
some senior staff never even looked at the blueprints––but it isn’t coincidental that a variety
of ASPCA board problems are almost legendary, including the presence of members who
have flouted ethical policies by openly wearing fur and participating in captive bird shoots;
who have had themselves sworn in as deputy humane officers in order to carry weapons
without a license; and in five cases hold lifetime posts reserved to particular families
through a quirk in the ASPCA charter. Lawsuits have challenged the legitimacy of the
ASPCA board at least four times in the past 45 years.
The financial and organizational problems of the Montreal-based Canadian SPCA,
documented here several times, demonstrate yet another common situation: a polarized
board, whose infighting over the past 15 years has caused it to go through more manage-
ment changes and proportionately greater economic losses than the Montreal Expos baseball
team. It may be stabilizing now, if only because more than half the board resigned in early
1993 when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and they were close to being held personally
responsible for the accumulated debt.
Wherever one looks, humane organizations are crippled by boards whose mem-
bers quarrel, second-guess, do nothing, and/or actively meddle––none of which properly
belongs in a board member’s job description. There are many available summaries of the
functions of boards and executive directors, compiled variously by standard-setting bodies
and consultants, but they all agree on the fundamentals:
The board exists to set broad policy guidelines and to raise funds.
The board must conduct itself according to the highest ethical standards of the
organization, both in public and in private.
Day-to-day management, including the hiring and firing of staff, is none of the
board’s beeswax.
The executive director makes the management decisions. The executive director
reports to the board upon the fulfillment of policy and on financial needs.
Unless summoned by the executive director to make a special presentation about
a program, staff members do not attend board meetings, do not report to the board, and do
not have direct access to individual board members. The proper channels for staff griev-
ances are through the executive director and/or through union grievance procedures.
If the board is dissatisfied with organizational performance, it should fire the
executive director and hire another. It should not try to override particular executive deci-
sions or otherwise micromanage the organization. Nor should it keep an executive director
in a state of limbo, with limited authority to make essential decisions and discipline staff.
There is also general agreement among nonprofit management experts that board
members should be:
Thoroughly familiar with and committed to the objectives of the organization,
with a long history of involvement on behalf of the organization.
Professionally qualified to deal with fundraising and policy questions.
Willing and able to raise funds. (In other areas of nonprofit activity, it is not
uncommon for board members to be required to ante up a certain amount each year, either
through fundraising activities exclusive of direct mail, which is generally supervised by the
executive director, or out of their own pockets.)
Note whom this excludes. Often longtime volunteers are rewarded with a board
post, a fatal mistake unless the volunteers are otherwise qualified, because suddenly some-
one over whom the executive director must exercise authority is in a position of authority
over the executive director. Inevitably conflict results. The remainder of the staff, both
hired and volunteer, becomes confused as to who is really in charge. Similarly, high
donors frequently are given board positions, without adequate grounding in just what they
are to do––an invitation to meddling.
Obviously well-qualified board members are in short supply. It is thus incumbent
upon boards to realize their responsibility to train themselves, on an ongoing basis. A sub-
scription to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which often reviews board roles, should be
mandatory for board officers; a subscription to ANIMAL PEOPLE could help every
member of a humane society board; and the American Humane Association and Humane
Society of the U.S. both offer worthwhile board development seminars.
It is also incumbent upon boards to terminate vacant seats rather than filling them
with unqualified or uninterested people. Many of the most severely fragmented boards are
so large as to be unwieldy, as factions have tried to stack them one way or the other or
encourage high donations through creating new seats. Rule of thumb: if a board has more
members than the organization has departmental managers, the board is too big. A poten-
tial solution for the too-large board problem is to subdivide into an executive committee,
which will perform the policymaking function, and an honorary board, whose role is
exclusively fundraising––but make sure the executive committee is also committed to
fundraising and that the honorary board doesn’t confuse a title with entitlement to tell any-
one else what to do. At least two national humane organizations and one major regional
humane society have ongoing problems because the board that makes the decisions and the
board that raises the money are either in perpetual conflict with each other or simply have
no contact (in the latter instance to the considerable benefit of the executive director).
Where standards fail
It is likewise necessary that donors become more savvy about the nature of boards.
Since it is unrealistic to expect the average donor to know either the boards of his/her
favorite charities and/or have expertise in nonprofit management, this really means per-
suading the National Charities Information Bureau, Better Business Bureau, and other
standard-setting bodies, including legislatures, to update their ethical requirements. Extant
requirements focus upon preventing material conflicts of interest, an essential goal in that
charities can and have been used to squirrel away tax-exempt family fortunes, provide
sinecures to heirs, and/or enrich executives and board members. As ANIMAL PEOPLE
has documented, the National Anti-Vivisection Society demonstrates the potential for abuse
in that the current board president and executive director succeeded her own father, while
family members hold at least half of the board seats and all of the top-paying jobs in the
organization. Yet it is important to realize that none of the above might be a problem if
NAVS had not also heavily invested in companies which not only perform but promote vivi-
section, while paying the top executives huge salaries relative to organizational income,
and providing such outlandish perquisites as a television-equipped van reportedly used as
the personal vehicle of the board president’s husband. The abuse lies in the response of the
individuals in question to the situation, not in the situation itself. And, ironically, NAVS
so neatly follows the letter if not the intent of the various codified ethical requirements that
it recently drew the top rating of any national humane organization from one minor indepen-
dent reviewing body. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, meanwhile, consistent-
ly flunks the ethical requirements of the NCIB because it avoids both board problems and
conflicts of interest through the simple expedient of limiting board membership to three:
cofounders Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco, plus one other trusted associate. We’re criti-
cal of PETA for many reasons, but the NCIB rulings are blantantly unfair, in that no one
has ever turned up the faintest hint that PETA is either enriching anyone or failing to spend
donations consonant with its charitable purpose. The structure of the PETA board, together
with the self-disciplined nature of the individuals involved, insures efficient management.
Enlarging the board to eliminate the “conflicts of interest” occasioned by the presence of
more than one voting staff member would do nothing to improve organizational integrity.
The same could be said of ANIMAL PEOPLE, whose board and staff are one
and the same, and of hundreds of other relatively small, tightly structured and eminently
effective humane groups, for whom accountability is a matter of being visible to the donor
base. If we’re not doing our job, you see it. If the Mom-and-Pop Animal Rescue League’s
founders drive a Porsche they didn’t have before they mailed their most recent appeal, the
community soon talks about it. If programs are adequately publicized and if executive com-
pensation and financial statements are published on an annual basis, the objectives of the
NCIB, BBB, et al are met even if every member of the charity in question is both related
and on the payroll. Real accountability begins not with board structure but with disclosure.
That’s why we publish the financial essentials of all the major national animal and
habitat protection groups each December. We regret that time and space don’t allow us to
do the same for each of the 3,000-odd regional and local humane charities in the U.S. and
Canada. We believe that by and large, animal-related charities stack up fairly well in the
area of ethical use of resources, compared to charites in other fields––and our reading of the
Chronicle of Philanthropy and other sources of information indicates that the greatest mis-
use of resources in this field as well as most others comes not through self-aggrandisement
and fraud, though certainly these are problems on occasion, but rather through ordinary
mismanagement resulting most often from board misperformance.
It is time the accreditation standards many donors use to guide them were updated
to stress operational efficiency as well as oversight, and to recognize that the best oversight
comes not necessarily from uninvolved and unrelated parties, nor from large boards, but
rather from dedicated people, whoever they are, who both keep the charitable purpose fore-
most and know how to work together to make decisions.

On Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness for Wildlife in Confinement

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1994:
by John Lukas
Director, White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, Florida

This guest column is adapted from a cage-rattling presentation Mr. Lukas delivered to the recent White Oak conference on zoos and animal protection, hosted by the Howard Gilman Foundation.

Happiness is not a term zoo administrators and others who hold wildlife in confinement like to use. Many of us were trained to think of “happiness” as a human interpretation, linked with anthropomorphizing animals, and therefore problematic when much of what we do is oriented toward trying to get animals to behave in the manner appropriate to their own species. Nonetheless, I use the term “happiness,” because even if we have trouble suitably defining it, I believe we cannot avoid having to think about it as an essential component of animal well-being.

Well-being, by dictionary definition, is the condition of happiness, prosperity, and good health. In considering the well-being of a confined animal, we must consider both biological well-being, which encompasses the territorial, social,
nutritional, and reproductive needs of a species, and cultural well-being, which is how we as humans understand the well-being of animals in the context of our own perceptions of happiness, cleanliness, safety, and how we think animals ought to be treated.

There are five principle venues in which wild animals may be confined to protect and/or perpetuate species. Each venue includes both inherent advantages and disadvantages in our efforts to insure animal well-being, including happiness, and it is important that their functions and capabilities not be confused. A zoo, for instance, cannot become a conservation center and continue to function as a zoo. Neither should a conservation center be allowed to evolve into a zoo without making a studied choice of taking that direction. Each venue for holding wildlife has a different job to
do, and the better we understand the distinctions, the better adapted our responses will be to the problems of keeping wild animals.

In situ refers to keeping animals in their native habitat under a degree of protection that can only be insured within territorial restraints. Usually this is done within a national park or wildlife reserve. An Intensive Protection Zone is a section of native habitat, usually within government land, within which a threatened species is concentrated when it needs more protection from humans than can be provided in situ. The IPZ is defined by fences, guard posts, natural barriers, and the presence of a large, well-trained unit of wildlife guards. The IPZ connects to a larger wildlife reserve into which the animals can be moved after the threats to their survival have been controlled or eliminated.

A conservation center is an institution outside the native range of particular animals that maintains these species in semi-natural conditions, with the emphasis on scientific management to aid their survival. The overriding premise is that the needs of the animals come first. Usually, conservation centers are not open to the public. Any animal observation is strictly controlled. Nature centers exhibit native species in naturalistic surroundings to educate visitors about indigenous plants and animals. Nature centers concentrate upon topics related to ecology and human interactions with wildlife on a local level.

Zoos exhibit animals in artificial environments meant to depict each animal in a semblance of natural habitat, for both
educational and recreational objectives. Progressive zoos dedicate resources to off-exhibit breeding and research, and make each exhibit as natural and representative of the habitat of the species kept as is possible.

Biological and cultural well-being

Each species has specific biological needs that must be fulfilled for it to survive and reproduce. For most species these
needs are known and documented. How well they are satisfied determines the level of well-being for the species in confinement. Animals in situ enjoy the maximum degree of natural biological well-being. The natural biological envrionment declines as we bring the animals into increasing degrees of confinement. As the natural sources of biological well-being are lost, we provide substitutes to maintain biological well-being at lesser levels. For instance, we substitute hay for natural grass, prepared meat diets for carcasses, culverts for dens, and concrete pools for lakes.


Our success depends upon how well we understand the biological needs of each species and upon how adept we are at responding to these needs within the constraints imposed by the levels of confinement. Cultural well-being is defined for most people by the question, “Is the animal happy?” Because most conservation efforts are financed either directly or indirectly by the general public, the White Oak Conservation Center being one of the few major exceptions, it is in our paramount interest to be able to answer that question–convincingly–in the affirmative. If we hold animals in conditions where they appear to be unhappy, we will not hold public support for long, no matter how well the biological needs of the animals are met.
People seem to sense that an animal is happy when he or she has adequate space to live in; lives in a normal social grouping; is in habitat resembling the natural home of the species; eats food resembling the species’ natural diet; is in a clean environment; the environment is safe and secure; and the animal does not look or act bored.

An analysis of cultural well-being takes the biological needs of the animals, injects into them human ideas about happiness, and examines how well the composite of animal needs and human perception is reflected in the animal’s environment and behavior. This leads us to several troublesome contradictions. For example, most people believe an animal can never have too much space: people equate space with freedom. But when people come to view wildlife, they expect to be able to see the animals. In a national park or wildlife reserve, this contradiction is resolved by conditioning the animals to accept the presence of tourist vehicles or boats. This can be done because the animals are protected by law from human harm, and therefore they soon become used to the presence of another essentially neutral entity. Some animals even use tourist vehicles for their advantage, as evidenced by the cheetahs in the Masaii Mara, who use vehicles as elevated observation points from which to look for suitable prey. Thus, even in the most natural of confinement situations, where we attempt to minimize the effects of human intrusion, animal behavior is
influenced by our activity. Our objective is to seek the best balance for the species being conserved, including the sometimes restrictive consideration that someone has to pay for the conservation effort.

In an IPZ, and to a lesser extent in conservation centers such as White Oak, suitable space is given to each species, but with little emphasis on visibility and more emphasis on protection, since the goal is to increase and maintain a fragmented population at all costs. Poaching, disruption of behavior, and harassing the animals is strictly forbidden; at IPZ facilities for black rhinos in Zimbabwe, suspected poachers are shot on sight. Because IPZs and conservation centers are costly, with little means of directly raising revenue, they are not a realistic or even desirable placement for most wildlife despite the advantages they seem to offer to the most fragile or vulnerable species.

Zoos by contrast must provide high visibility. They exist to exhibit animals. Within this context, the space allocated to each species should nonetheless be the maximum available. This requires innovative and costly exhibits: a good zoo cannot be created (or recreated from a substandard existing facility) on the cheap, without a strong ongoing commitment to maintaining quality care. Most important, running a good zoo requires carefully selecting the species to be exhibited, making sure their allotted space is both biologically adequate and culturally perceived to be adequate. If
this cannot be done for a particular species, that species should not be kept.

At zoos, the more that appears natural in the animals’ lives, the more people will perceive that the animals are happy and prosperous. Selecting only species that can be afforded properly constructed exhibits, allowing a natural lifestyle, will go far in presenting a positive image to visitors. In addition to space, we must consider boredom. If an animal looks bored or sad or displays stereotypic behavior, the public will respond adversely. Such behavior is an unnatural response to an artificial environment. Improvement in space, habitat quality, food sources, social opportunities, and health care usually will eliminate the negative behavior. If not, most likely this individual or species should not be kept at the zoo level of confinement. Such animals or species should be kept in relatively close confinement only at conservation centers, in semi-natural habitat. In certain cases, even a conservation center may not be sufficient to insure well-being, and the animal should only be kept in situ, despite the accompanying risks. These cases, where
extinction is possible, pose perhaps the most painful moral dilemma facing the species conservation community.

Safety, security, and cleanliness are uniquely human considerations. Animals do not worry about their safety, other than in situations of immediate danger. Rather, they go about their lives concerned with living. Many mammals and birds clean and groom themselves, and some species keep their dens clean, but most are unconcerned with keeping or finding a clean home range. People worry about dirt because people understand the relationship between filth
and disease. People like cleanliness, and an animal in a clean environment makes us happy, so most people feel the animal also must be happy about it–although in fact the animal may have carefully marked his or her habitat and may be quite stressed at the removal of the markings.

Consideration for safety, security, and cleanliness reverse the order of which levels of confinement provide the best situation for animals as people see them. In situ areas provide little security or cleanliness. Natural factors such as predation, disease, starvation, and intra-species aggression, along with human poaching, hunting, and harassment, take a heavy toll. IPZs and conservation centers provide protection from some types of harm, but zoos offer the best overall security and the cleanest environment. Most causes of in situ mortality can be eliminated through the intensive care that good zoos provide. Thus zoo animals on average live much longer than wild animals.

This is both a blessing and a curse. Long-lived animals breed more offspring, if able to breed. They also must be
expensively kept well past their reproductive years and even past the years of their exhibit value. Here again, the perception of happiness depends more on quality of life than on quantity of years. Zoos must provide quality environments and care for all of their animals for their entire lives, if they are to be seen as providing well-being. Aged animals, like aged people, deserve special care. Planning for each animal’s retirement must begin while the animal is
If people see that a confined animal lives in natural surroundings, in natural social groups, eating natural-looking food
in a large area but remaining visible, and if the area is clean and safe, and if the animal does not appear bored or sad, then the animal must be happy. If wild animals are treated at all as we treat domestic livestock, people perceive cruelty.


One way to provide well-being as conditions of confinement become more artificial is to develop appropriate standards for confined living. Such standards should be developed not only by curators, zoologists, and ethologists, but also with input from philosophers and humane advocates. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, through Species Survival Plans, provides expertise in genetic and demographic management of captive populations. Overlooked is what each species needs to experience happiness.

In SSP master planning, a husbandry manual is formulated which describes certain basic standards to maintain a species in artificial environments. I have attended several SSP planning sessions, and feel it is detrimental to develop so-called minimum standards. The idea of “minimum” as “standard” is a contradiction if we define a standard as a “level of excellence generally regarded as right.” In basing standards on the status quo, which includes some deplorable facilities for certain species, the zoo community leaves itself open for justly deserved criticism. Husbandry manuals fall short because they describe what is done now, not what should be done. The standards for management of a species in captivity should stand by themselves, should be emulated, and should be goals to reach for. Let us call them optimum standards of confinement, or OSC. An OSC, if set by a multi-disciplinary commitee, should satisfy both the biological needs of a species and our cultural perception of how animals should be treated.

The decision to keep animals should be linked to a percentage of compliance with the OSC, as set by the committee. For instance, if the committee finds that 75% compliance with the OSC for species “A” is enough to insure the well-being of the species in a zoo setting, then zoos realizing that level of compliance could exhibit animals of species “A,” while continuing to strive toward complete realization of the OSC for that species. If a zoo could only achieve 60% compliance, it could not keep species “A.” Implementing OSC standards will be difficult and costly. But if we are to raise the level of care of the animals we confine purportedly for their own good, we must dedicate new resources and
new energy to developing and realizing optimum standards for confinement. Raising the standards of care of course becomes steadily more costly as the level of confinement increases. Here is where hard decisions lie ahead, for if we cannot provide the standard at a certain level of confinement, the animal should only be maintained in situations of less confinement. Until a standard can be met at each particular level of confinement, efforts should be concentrated on maintaining the species at those levels where the standards of well-being are already being met.

Coming from a conservation center background, I see thatconservation centers have more resources available with which to satisfy biological well-being for certain species than zoos. But for other species, conservation centers have significantly fewer resources than in situ programs. Every time the White Oak Conservation Center considers helping a new species, we go through our own OSC checklist to see if we really can provide for that species well-being. Believe me, sometimes the answer is no. We may have to let certain species fight for their survival in situ because
we cannot realistically satisfy their OSC at the zoo or conservation center level of confinement –although we can provide support to in situ conservation efforts. Other species may only be helped by conservation centers, which provide the best chance to prepare species for reintroduction into in situ situations.

Everyone working with confined wildlife needs to consider the well-being of individual animals while we consider the well-being of species. It is easy to justify less than desirable programs in the name of saving animals from extinction. However, as the human consciousness explores more respectful relationships with other species, the conservation community needs to be leading the way in developing a new covenant with wildlife, based upon dignity and well-being, and including attention to that elusive but important ideal of happiness.

(John Lukas, director of the White Oak Conservation Center since 1982, is also vice president of the International Rhino Foundation. He formerly served in various capacities with the Boston Zoological Society, the Okanagan Game Farm, and the New York Zoological Society, gaining direct experience at all levels of wildlife confinement.)

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