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Animal Rights People are ... Running Wild

Voice of the Times / Anchorage Daily News / March 2, 2005

It's time for Alaska to tell the animal rights people - politely, if possible - where to go and how to get there.

The maneuvers by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and an allied group calling itself "Friends of Maggie" are becoming increasingly outrageous.

They apparently are folks who have watched too many movies about animals running free and happy on the plains of Africa. The two long have been campaigning to have Maggie, the Alaska Zoo's elephant, dragged away from her home here and placed on a ranch in the Lower 48.

Then just recently, PETA called on Gov. Frank Murkowski to ban fishing for king salmon. Its reasoning, if you can call it such, is that fish are "intelligent animals who feel pain." No matter that such a ban would remove an important source of protein from Alaska's dinner plates, end one of the state's most enjoyable outdoor sports, put a serious dent in Alaska tourism and convince the world that we had lost our minds.

Pressure from the two animal rights groups was not getting the desired results on Maggie, so they decided to put the hammer down and strongarm the Alaska Zoo.

They brought in a husband-and-wife team of filmmakers who created the successful movie "Free Willy." Their organization, the Donners' Company, sent the zoo a letter demanding that Maggie be shipped south. If their demand wasn't met, they threatened to do a movie about Maggie and smear the zoo.
"When we depict it," the letter said, "we will not hesitate to spare the reality of the situation as we see it and use the zoo's policy as the villain in a forthcoming film."

Zoo Curator Pat Lampi responded appropriately by saying: "The board of directors is not going to be ambushed or manipulated or threatened into an action, especially if it's by people who are using misinformation."

If those transgressions weren't enough, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported back last week on a surprise inspection of Maggie's living conditions and the care being given her. Its experts, including an elephant specialist, said she needs more exercise and a better floor in her enclosure - both of which were already in the works - but otherwise her situation is just fine. The zoo is in compliance with all federal standards.

The USDA inspection was requested by PETA last November. So did the Alaska Zoo's passing grades appease PETA? Of course not. The group responded by trashing the inspection it requested. "The USDA inspectors are very limited in their findings and in their inspections because of the minimal standards established by the federal Animal Welfare Act," said Nicole Meyer, elephant specialist for PETA.

If that is what she believed, why did PETA ask for the inspection in the first place? Things just didn't go her way, that's all.


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