Rabbi Marc Gellman’s essay at Newsweek.com about the ethics of keeping animals in zoos brought me back to a seminal experience—a turning point for me and my thoughts about our responsibilities to animals. I went to an all-boys Catholic high school in West Haven, Conn., and we took a day trip during my senior year to the Central Park Zoo—an old-style zoo of concrete and steel that had none of the trappings of today’s more modern zoos and their naturalistic enclosures.
It did not take more than a few minutes of observation to send me into a deep funk. I still have, now 25 years later, the indelible image in my mind of a jaguar pacing back and forth in his miserly little enclosure. I read his behavior as utter anguish.
I ruined the trip for the teachers and all of my classmates. I went into a mode of overt depression, and I infected everyone on the trip with my gloom. Our teachers had intended we learn a bit about New York City that day, but I am sure they had no idea how rich an experience it turned out to be for many of us.
So thank you Rabbi Gellman for asking some important questions about our responsibilities to animals. I am especially pleased to see these musings from a man of religious authority. The HSUS has a new Animals and Religion program, and we are reaching out to religious leaders and people of faith. Gellman’s essay is the sort of introspection we hope to promote not only in churches and synagogues, but around the dinner table every day of the year. Go to humanesociety.org/religion to learn more.
You can read Rabbi Gellman’s essay here.