The Ghosts In Our Machine

Siobhan’s Ghost-Free Journey: Day 3

Photo courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Today is already Day 3 for Siobhan in her Ghost-Free Journey. The past 2 days have been spent discussing food options, sources of protein, product testing and cruelty-free personal care products.

In Siobahn’s own words “For day 3, I would love to talk about animals in the entertainment industry such as zoos …that is something I have actively despised ever since I was a kid. “

So many of us can remember the sad and unsettling feelings that we had when we were children and were taken to zoos or circuses, especially if others around us were not understanding of our feelings. We would love to hear more about your feelings and thoughts on this issue, Siobahn. As always, we hope that others will join in.

For the Ghosts,

Mentors Donna and Rosemary

The opinions we express as GFJ Mentors are ours personally. We are not professional health practitioners.  Neither are we treating a specific health care issue.  That means we are not offering advice on health-care problems. If you  are experiencing a health-care problem, it is important to seek the advice of a health professional. However we are experienced, practicing vegans and we look forward to coaching you on your journey.


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  1. Mentor Donna September 18, 2013 at 6:57 am

    As I was thinking about this topic, I came across many wonderful articles and essays. Something that has really struck me is this excerpt from “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou:

    “The free bird thinks of another breeze
    an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
    and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
    and he names the sky his own.

    But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
    his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
    his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
    so he opens his throat to sing”

  2. Siobhan` September 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Hey guys – Day 3 wooooh!

    I have boycotted the zoo since I was 5 years old. Even in high school when there was a mandatory field trip to the Toronto Zoo for my science course, I had to put up a huge fight (including writing a 6 page essay) just to avoid spending money to support that industry.

    I think it’s really sad and weird that we send kids on field trips to zoos to “learn about animals” that don’t behave like they would in the wild.

    All it teaches kids is that it’s normal to confine rare, majestic animals for financial profit and human entertainment.

    I do understand the scientific merits to studying them up close, but I think this can be done in other ways. I also understand the fact that oftentimes in North America, the animals that go to zoos were rescued or facing serious life threatening health issues…but I do not think it’s any life to live. You take all these different species from different continents, put them in a tiny area where they can

    It’s no wonder why so many animals in zoos actually end up going crazy or becoming withdrawn and depressed. You would do that too if you were cooped up in your bedroom for the rest of your life, having random strangers tap on your windows and take photos of you all day! The poem that Donna shared perfectly illustrates this notion.

    I think a better way of learning about animals (and even using them for entertainment) is via documentary filmmaking. A small crew of usually only 3-4 people track the animal down, film it from afar and follow it in its natural environment. There is no damage done to its habitat, and no need to tear families apart or disrupt its natural way of life. These documentaries (or even just TV specials such as Life or Planet Earth) are way more insightful than any zoo could ever be, and I think children learn the exact same respect and admiration as they would if they had gone to the zoo – if not more!

    What does everyone else think? Can you offer any other alternatives to zoos that are educational but nonintrusive?

  3. Nina September 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Siobhan, all I can say is hear hear! I think the reaction to zoos that you describe is an instinctive reaction that many children have. It is a terrible thing in our society that adults/schools etc. force children to participate in the institution of zoos, and one of the primary lessons in animal subjugation. I completely agree that with the sophisticated media we now have all around us there are more than enough tools available to teach children (and all humans) about the natural world without enslaving the precious few wild animals that remain on our planet. That said, I do support animal sanctuaries, as many wild animals no longer have a place to live safely.

    • Siobhan September 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      You’re right Nina, animal sanctuaries are definitely crucial. Sometimes I wish I could just create a huge protective barrier against all animals…or making a duplicate of planet Earth, only without the addition of humans…so I could send all the endangered animals to live in peace. Blahhh, why does our species have to ruin everything 🙁

  4. Mentor Rosemary September 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    So many people (including myself up until recently), visited zoos and aquariums in droves to get a glimpse of the wonder, the majestic, and to learn. The imprisonment and confinement of non-human animals parallels the nature of humans also being brainwashed and confined. Why do we feel the need to see animals in that environment to learn, to be entertained, or for our convenience? It seems to me that it comes down to dominion and rights….the question that The Ghosts In Our Machine asks….property or sentient being?

    Siobhan, your compassion and intuitive nature since childhood has obviously stayed with you…something so many people lose with age. You haven’t let yourself be brainwashed by tradition, convenience, or entitlement. It’s a beautiful thing….
    There are so many other ways to experience and learn about animals. But, maybe we don’t have to know everything about animals either. Just a thought.

    • Siobhan September 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Clearly sentient beings! I think what most people need to realize and remind themselves of is the fact that we as humans NEED animals to survive. We are nothing without nature, so why do we feel the need to control it, destroy it, or “remaster” it?

      You’re right, it seems people tend to become brainwashed in our society to view animals as property…sometimes I wish more people adopted the traditional Aboriginal view of life, where you only take what you need, use every part of what you take, and replenish it afterward. I don’t think there will EVER come a day when the entire world is vegan…but I wish those who do eat meat figured out how to be sustainable or have any concept of how an ecosystem operates.

      “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.”

      ― Cree Indian Prophecy

  5. Mentor Rosemary September 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Invaluable resource by HEART~Humane Education. Lists many resources for the classroom and beyond.

  6. Judy Hurst September 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    And in 1 month, the three elephants at the Toronto Zoo will be relocated to a sanctuary in California! It’s about time! We used to go to the zoo annually, and as zoos go, Toronto is pretty big, in terms of habitat space, for most of the animals. But we went in the winter and saw the space that the elephants and rhinos live in during the cold months and thought to ourselves “this is no way to live”. And we have a pretty long winter in Toronto!

    Our kids are learning those lessons now, which I am grateful for. Every time we see the commercial for MarineLand, they chime in that not EVERYONE loves marineland. (for your non Canadians, it’s a reference to the jingle played in the commercial).

    On yesterdays topic, you asked where in Toronto I got my makeup. It was pretty much always at the Big Carrot. Although I think Noah’s Carries a lot of the same brands.

    Making Empenadas today for a catering event, so I have to go tend to my dough. Hope you are having a great day and week so far!

    • Mentor Donna September 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Yes, Judy – thank you so much for all of your wonderful comment and suggestions during the past few days. Your children sound wonderful – and we are expecting that recipe for the empenadas!

  7. Mentor Rosemary September 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Thank you for your contributions to this GFj in the past few days, Judy!
    Did you check out the HEART Humane Ed link I posted? You might find something in there for your children. There is a wealth of info shared on that site…amazing. I think your experience with your children and how they’ve adapted is an excellent illustration that it can happen. Some children, (like when Siobhan was), and yours “just know”, others may go along with the protocol, so to speak. How wonderful that your children get it now!

    I’m glad to hear that the elephants are going to a sanctuary in California! There is some progress !
    Empenadas sound wonderful too 🙂

  8. lizmars September 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Siobhan – Happy Day 3 –
    Do your friends know that you are on this Journey? Let them know – we welcome their thoughts and comments!!!

    Here is an interesting link from our GET INVOLVED section on the Ghosts website, check it out: ALTERNATIVES TO ZOOS AND AQUARIA

    For the Ghosts,

    • Siobhan September 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      These are all excellent alternatives! I also LOVE to see all these TV programs designed for kids such as “Wild Kratts” that are aimed at educating children about wildlife, human impacts on nature, and how we can protect our animals and environment from further danger. Kids actually seem to love that show, so it gives me hope.

      A lot of my friends do know I’m on this journey, but the majority of them don’t share my animal loving ways and therefore are critical over it. The common beliefs people seem to share is that veganism is “too extreme”, “unhealthy” and “pretentious”…and you better believe I’ve been giving them a mouthful for it. This is something I wanted to focus on for Day 5, so I will leave it to Friday to expand more on!

  9. Mentor Rosemary September 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    There has been a significant amount of controversy lately about animals used in other aspects of the entertainment industry, such as movies, music videos, theater, and TV. Wondering what your thoughts are about this? Examples: Katy Perry’s “Roar” video, the movie “War Horse” or Planet of the Apes”, etc.

    To extend the issue further…what are you thoughts about having an animal as a companion…do we have the right to “own” an animal? Is this exercising dominion over them?

    Lee Hall, VP Legal affairs, Friends of Animals

    • Siobhan September 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Hi Rosemary,

      I just wrote out a long heartfelt reply to this, sent it, but the captcha didn’t go through and everything was erased. ugh!

      I think people like Katy Perry use animals to give off a “cool” bad ass image without thinking twice. Even if these wild animals are being pampered, it still perpetuates the idea that animals are meant to be controlled and used for our amusement. It’s completely unnecessary.

      As for animal ownership, this is a concern of mine that I will address tomorrow when I discuss the issue of feeding house pets.

      • Mentor Rosemary September 18, 2013 at 9:55 pm

        A beautiful quote by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau~

        “I believe that the process of becoming vegan is the process of reclaiming our true compassion and becoming reawakened to it, and I think understanding the journey of going from innately compassionate child to desensitized adult to one whose compassion is re-awakened is key to inspiring it in others and to remaining awake ourselves. Once we become awake, however, another journey begins, and in today’s episode, I introduce listeners to the 10 Stages we all go through once we become vegan. I believe that knowing that these stages are very real is crucial to feeling normal, crucial to understanding why people react the way they do when you tell them you’re vegan, and crucial to living in this world as a proud, joyful vegan who can effectively advocate for the animals and on behalf of a compassionate ethic.”

  10. Mentor Donna September 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Siobahn, you are wise way beyond your years – and young enough at heart to still respond to animals with love, curiosity, enchantment and the desire to protect them.

    How sad that children (and adults) should be made to feel like outsiders for having empathy. I am looking forward to discussing this issue more on Friday as you suggested.

    For now, I feel that there is great hope for the future – change will come about because of people like you and Judy’s children and so many others who stand up for what’s right – even if they stand alone amongst their friends.

    • Siobhan September 18, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Thank you Donna, and clearly you are a part of the compassionate population that has not allowed society to stifle your feelings toward animals!

      I wish I could be as optimistic as you are for the future generation and their treatment of animals, but I just don’t know…:(

      I love that quote as well! It’s so true, children’s reactions are always the same….”wait….you mean chicken is actually a CHICKEN???”

  11. Mentor Donna September 18, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I found a passage from an essay by Marc Bekoff (from Animals Matter) that ties in to the feelings that young children naturally have for animals –

    “We can alert kids that their turkey was once a bird, their bacon and sausage was once a pig, and that their hamburger was once a cow. It’s amazing how few children know this and when they discover that they’re eating Babe even without knowing how the animal suffered, they’re often incredulous. Kids know animals aren’t “things.”