My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

21 March 2007

The unbearable cuteness of Knut

I really think that was enough foot-related blog content for the time being. Onwards and upwards.

Let's talk about current events, namely this adorable little current event:

Let's check in with Stephen Colbert to get some much-needed perspective on the issue.

I, like all of you, have been hearing all about that cuddly little bear cub vicious killer lately.

I'm sure you've all been following the story, but I'll summarize it anyway: Knut was born in December, rejected by his mother and subsequently raised by hand and bottle-fed by zookeepers. He's been a star in the German media since his birth, but only made international headlines last week when some animal rights activists called for him to be put down.

What bothers me about the argument used by the activists is the idea that Knut should be euthanized murdered executed killed because it is "natural."

Their whole argument utterly disregards this simple fact:

Zoos aren't natural.

Zoos simply do not exist to replicate natural conditions, and it's a mistake to expect them to operate according to what would happen to their animals in nature. After all, if things happened naturally, those animals wouldn't be in zoos.

Whatever you hold to be the true purpose of zoos, killing Knut doesn't make any sense. Let me demonstrate:

The cynic's view holds that zoos are (a) colonialist endeavors, attempts to fetishize and control the "exotic" world, package it and sell it, that (b) still exist in the post-colonial period because they make money. The idealist's view holds that zoos exist to perform valuable educational and conservational services.

If the zoo's purpose is the former, keeping Knut alive makes sense because he is exotic, can be marketed, and can make lots of money for the zoo (indeed has made lots of money for the zoo). If it is the latter, killing him would only impede education and conservation; it is very difficult to educate someone about the polar bear you just murdered. Plus, with the potentially devastating impact of global warming on the polar bear, the existence of the species might depend on breeding of captive animals like Knut.

But wouldn't "Killing Knut" be a good name for a band?



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