blue-flag-thumb2_50x50Our side's flag is a thin, airlight blue, drifting almost unseen against the sky. Our military march is a meadowlark's song among the dandelions. --Ken Kesey, The Real War


Media Monkey Business | Mickey Z.

Photo credit: Mickey Z.Photo credit: Mickey Z.

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

"Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test ,consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect humankind has suffered a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it."

- Milan Kundera

A 22-year-old Idaho man named Michael J. Watkins stands accused of killing a patas monkey inside Zoo Boise last month. According to the Associated Press, “Prosecutors contend Watkins concluded a drunken evening by trying to steal the animal but wound up bludgeoning it to death after it fought back.”

Here’s the version being offered by Watkins’ public defenders: “He and another person entered the zoo in the early morning hours; the monkey was taken from its cage, after which Watkins tried to throw it over the fence -- to free it. When that failed, the monkey turned on Watkins, who killed it in self-defense.”

Either way, Watkins may wind up in a cage of his own -- for as long as 14 years. This likelihood grows out of an Idaho law that allows prosecutors to bring a grand theft charge against anyone accused of “killing livestock or other animals valued at more than $150.”

The defendant’s father had this to say in his son’s defense: "He's not a malicious monkey murderer. I'm thinking the monkey attacked him and he just tried to defend himself. I don't think he ever intended to kill it; he's just not that kind of guy."

Zoo Boise, meanwhile, has installed razor wire around the monkey enclosures to prevent future break-ins.

(insert long, deep sigh here)

Where do I begin in explaining how this sad tale illustrates some of the many ways our dominant culture has, well, basically fucked everything up?

For starters, I could point out how we humans have grown so disconnected from nature that we seemingly don’t even expect a monkey to “fight back” when physically grabbed and when it does, we justify our violence as “self-defense.”

Perhaps, I could focus on laws based on the following: “killing livestock or other animals valued at more than $150” -- but that might turn into a book so, for now, I’ll at least do what the corporate media didn’t and tell you a little about the patas monkey.

When not incarcerated in zoos or “medical research institutions,” the world’s fastest primate (reaching speeds of 34 MPH) lives in social groups in West Africa. Recognizable by their white whiskers, the patas are very much fruit eaters and thus, in a less damaged and disrupted eco-system, help to disperse seeds.

Moving right along…

The elder Watkins’ oblivious comments could be worthy of at least an entire article in and of themselves. We’ve drifted so far from reality that we can used the word “murderer” in this context yet defend that human as never having “intended to kill” because “he's just not that kind of guy.”

Reality: Unless he’s the kind of guy who adopts the vegan lifestyle, his hands are soaked in the blood of myriad “malicious murders.”

Then, of course, there’s the decision by Zoo Boise to not re-examine any aspect of its existence except security.

(insert another long, deep sigh here)

But, as I see it, while the media, lawyers, and zookeepers wring their hands over the precise details of this singular episode, the big picture issue here is and will remain this: the animals “at our mercy” should never be imprisoned as for-profit entertainment and such captivity does not help them avoid extinction.

Here’s some of what the media omits when reporting on zoos:

  • Zoos are mostly focused on "cute babies" and ultimately create unwanted animals.
  • They can reduce genetic diversity and do not contribute to increasing robust animal populations in the wild.
  • They do little to nothing to seriously address the underlying causes of habitat loss and thereby let the perpetrators off the hook.
  • Warehousing endangered species sends the frightening subliminal message that it's acceptable to spend money to view animals in enclosures while, for example, forests are being clear cut to make way for doomed livestock -- depriving many of those same animals the freedom to live in their own habitats.
  • Captive breeding can create a false sense that the battle to save endangered species and habitats is being won.
  • Animals are obviously not meant to live in captivity and, as a result, often display stress and/or psychological dysfunction and just as often, these animals are abused.
  • Encountering animals in a zoo setting teaches the wrong lessons about how our eco-systems work. Wrong lessons only serve to sustain a system that should be dismantled.

Here’s some of what I hope you’ll consider after reading my article:

  • Humans are just one of 8.7 million species sharing (sic) a planet
  • Whether you call it a cage, a cell, a jail, a pen, a ward, a prison, a wildlife center, or an enclosure... captivity is captivity
  • A culture that confines and abuses animals for profit is highly likely to regularly promote and engage in other forms of violence and exploitation

Suggested reading: Occupy4Primates (that includes us)

Suggested mindset: Radical and immediate direct action in the name of holistic justice for all species.


Join us for: Occupy the Climate: Hurricane Sandy, Eco-Activism, & the Vegan Option (a talk by Mickey Z.)

Saturday, Jan. 12
7 p.m.

172 Allen St.
New York, NY 10002

A gathering/teach-in for everyone and anyone (of course) but with a special focus on activists who are not yet vegan and vegans who are not activists. If that's you -- or anyone you know -- please mark Jan. 12 on your calendar.


Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

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