Non Zoo Voices

Imagine you were in a forest and a wolf walked up to you. They said:

“Hey there human, don’t be afraid. I’m a peaceful vegan wolf and I would never eat a human like yourself. In fact, I want to be best friends! Me and some other friendly peaceful vegan wolves are having a friendship party deep in the woods, why don’t you come along?”

On one hand, who doesn’t want to have a cool friendship party with cool wolves. On the other hand, wolves are predators, and something like this sounds too good to be true. You know wolves are ruthless, and hunt with a pack. You know they love to eat meat. And you know that you’re made of meat. No matter how much you want to believe, it’s hard to surpress the alarm bells.

Or maybe it’s not. I might have picked the wrong analogy for this audience. But you get the point. It’s hard to believe a group that’s known for one thing when they claim they don’t do that one thing. Even if the one thing they’re known for isn’t even true.

Say that you’re wandering in the forest, wolf comes up, blah blah blah. Except this time, as he invites you to the party, a bunny hops out of the woods and says:

“Hey by the way, the wolf friendship party is super cool and it’s at a lake and there’s all sorts of animals there. You should definitely come!”

At that point, the wolf’s story becomes much more believable. If a rabbit is vouching for the wolves, maybe they really are peaceful and vegan, and you can go have the time of your life wolfing it up.

This somewhat convoluted analogy is to make a point. Right now, the zoo community at large are the wolves (you’re welcome therians). Lots of people make the assumption that we’re violent predators who are just trying to make ourselves sound good so we can harm behind closed doors. And the man in the woods we’re inviting to our party, that’s everyone else. All the people that we want to change the opinions of. As much as we want to try and give them a cool party, it’s hard to overlook the fact that at the end of the day we’re still wolves, and they have a preconception of what that means. Some people out there are avid wolf haters (or zoo haters) and go out of their way to hunt them. But for most people, it’s not so consciously thought-out: it’s just a visceral reaction based on what they know. They’re afraid because they’ve been told they should be afraid. And the wolf smiling wide and promising not to bite, or the zoo writing an article about how much they love animals, probably isn’t going to be enough to shake people of that fear.

And that’s where the bunny comes in. The bunny doesn’t have any skin in the game. It’s not like the bunny is going to eat the human. There’s no reason for them to be in on the scheme, which makes their perspective that much more credible. This is the case with zoos and their allies as well. Some people will dismiss everything a zoo says as just propaganda, trying to cover up what really happens behind the scenes. They can do this by saying “Well, you want to fuck animals, of course you’d lie and say they like it!” But that line doesn’t work anymore when the person saying it doesn’t want to fuck animals. They don’t have that intrinsic bias.

If anything, zoo allies are socially pressured to stay silent. An ally coming out and saying “I’m not a zoo but I believe animals can consent” opens them up to the same scorn that we zoos face. And that’s a hard position to be in. Especially since not every ally is going to want to make a zoo alt to voice their opinions on. But that only makes their voices even more powerful.

And that’s why it can be so hard for our point to disseminate. It’s well known among zoos who are in the community, who come out to people like friends and family and therapists, that we have a lot of support from non-zoos, more than some people would ever guess. But at the same time, it’s not like we can force every would-be ally out of the woodwork to support our cause. We’re asking the bunny to talk to the human, even though the bunny is well aware that sometimes, humans want to eat bunnies too. Most bunnies are smarter than to risk it.

The only thing we can do is keep being ourselves, keep spreading our message, and be open when people want to have conversations. The larger our community grows, and the more comfortable people will be supporting it. From official people like doctors, psychologists, biologists, to day to day people like our friends and family. All of those people are going to end up being so important to our movement.

Which brings us back to the first point. Maybe it’s easier to convince the human to come to the party with a bunny at our side. But to do that, we still need to convince the bunny to trust us–the wolf–first. Maybe the bunny lives in the forest and has more experience with us. Maybe the bunny grew up with one of the wolves and they’re already friends. Maybe the bunny is a particularly aspiring academic who’s willing to put their career on the line in order to help better understand the phenominon of “vegan wolves.”

Maybe you reading this right now are a bunny, or possibly are a bunny in the making. If so, hi. Have you checked out our awesome friendship parties deep in the forest? They’re a blast I promise. I would never expect you to have to put yourself on the line for us wolves. That’s too much to ask. If anything, I’m appreciative of the fact that you’re willing to hang out with us at all. But hey. Maybe next time you hear two people talking about zoos in a negative way, you just casually mention that that sounds like a lot of stereotyping. Or, at the very least you don’t support the conversation. Maybe you decide you want to send in a letter to a wolf podcast, or write an article for a wolf magazine stating your support. Maybe, if you’re feeling especially brave, might tweet something vaguely zoo positive, while of course maintaining enough distance to keep plausible deniability.

Because all it takes is enough little steps to make a big one. We’ve got a long way to go, and we appreciate any amount of support you give us. On behalf of all wolves, I thank you.

Now, wanna wander around the forest and see if we can’t find some humans to invite to the party?

Article written by Tarro (October 2023)

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