Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lucy Ruling Didn't Address Welfare

Contrary to the claims of City of Edmonton officials and representatives, the August 20th ruling of Associate Chief Justice John D. Rooke in the Zoocheck/PETA legal action against the City did not in any way vindicate the Valley Zoo’s treatment of Lucy.

In fact, Rooke was very clear that his ruling was not addressing Lucy’s housing, care and health. He said, “While this litigation before the Court makes allegations about the health and care of Lucy, this Decision does not address those allegations. Rather, it addresses the health of the legal system to properly consider such allegations.”

What’s particularly unfortunate in all this is that the overwhelming affidavit evidence from a cadre of world renowned elephant experts confirming Lucy’s poor living conditions and inappropriate social isolation was never heard.

The Valley Zoo didn’t have to defend their nonsensical claims about Lucy that fly in the face of accepted science, zoo industry knowledge and common sense.

They also didn’t have to explain the seemingly undiagnosable, "phantom" illness they claim relegates Lucy to a lifetime of loneliness in the north. They dodged a bullet, for now.

Meanwhile, just this week, yet another major North American zoo announced their decision to transfer their two elephants to another facility citing an inability to properly provide for their needs.

It’s unfortunate Lucy doesn’t have such enlightened people in charge.

The keeping of elephants in captivity has become increasingly controversial around the world. Zoos defend the practice but they do acknowledge that some of the relatively routine practices of the past need changed. One area of where there is universal agreement is the inappropriateness of keeping single female elephants. Almost every published zoo standard in the world says elephants must be kept in groups.

The Valley Zoo and City of Edmonton claim Lucy is fine all by herself and that she’s happy and healthy (although too sick to be moved, of course). On this issue, the keeping of a highly social female elephant in permanent social isolation, the Valley Zoo and City of Edmonton seem to stand alone.

The Valley Zoo has even claimed Lucy is a non-social elephant, although they’ve produced no evidence to suggest that their claim is true. During a recent trip to India, I asked a leading Asian elephant research scientist if he could conceive of a situation in which a female elephant might be non-social. He laughed and said, “There’s no such thing as a non-social female elephant. That animal doesn’t exist.”

Why the Valley Zoo and the City of Edmonton are so out of step with the times and fight so vigorously to keep Lucy is baffling. It’s like they’re living in a time warp and haven’t realized things have changed. The whole world is moving forward, but apparently not in Edmonton.

Rob Laidlaw
Zoocheck Canada