Open Letter to Seattle City Mayor and Council Regarding Woodland Park Zoo’s Elephant Task Force

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

-Mahatma Gandhi.

To: Seattle City Mayor and Council
Re: Woodland Park Zoo Elephant Task Force

June 25th, 2013

Dear Mayor McGinn and Councilmembers Clark, Bagshaw, Burgess, Conlin, Godden, Harrell, Licata, O’Brien, Rasmussen:

On April 21st, 2013, I emailed each of you regarding my Open Letter to Woodland Park Zoo’s Elephant Exhibit & Program Task Force, but I’ve yet to receive a single reply from any of your offices regarding the issue. (Although the mayor was kind enough to add me to his spam email list. Thanks for that, Mr. Mayor!)

While the city informally asked Woodland Park Zoo to impanel a task force – better referred to as a “task farce” given that it was set up by the zoo to decide what is in its own best interests and not necessarily the elephants’ (insert fox guarding hen house joke here) – is it now your position to remain conspicuously silent while that panel conducts its meetings and rubber stamps the zoo’s intention of keeping Watoto, Bamboo, and Chai behind bars for the rest of their days for the amusement of a paying public?

As a proud citizen of this fine city as well as a concerned one, I wonder if such silence and an unwillingness on the city’s part to properly investigate the elephants’ welfare by qualified people and organizations who are not directly associated with either Woodland Park Zoo or the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will serve the mayor or council well come election time? Like elephants, your constituents have long memories and we won’t forget where you stood and, as importantly, where you remained silent on this issue.

Here is a recent article on the Task Force and how very little they, the zoo, or the AZA truly cares about the welfare of these three magnificent and sentient animals beyond the gate receipts they bring in. Take the time, read it, and then ask yourselves if this how you want history to remember this city and your time in office when this issue is looked back on.

Do the moral thing, do the ethical thing, do the right thing and send Watoto, Bamboo, and Chai to a properly recognized sanctuary, such as The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee or the Performing Animal Welfare Society, where they have the room to roam and be the elephants that they are; not creatures confined to tiny enclosures at least six months out of every year, forced to be artificially inseminated against their will again and again and again, used as “conservation decoys” for the money they bring in.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we’re living in an enlightened age and understand what it means to be a compassionate species. Let’s pretend for their sake that we have their best interests at heart. Let’s not keep silent for the benefit of political expediency. Watoto, Bamboo, and Chai deserve better from you on this issue – as does Seattle. We’re watching, waiting, and paying attention. Are you?

I look forward to your replies.

Craig Young
Seattle, WA

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