Give me pity, or give me contempt!

An anonymous commenter named "Candace" has just discovered a post I wrote so long ago (about the ongoing effort to make the Philadelphia Zoo get rid of its elephants) that I'm afraid no one will notice it.

From the tone of her comment, I don't think Candace is happy with me or with the other commenters:

You people are nauseating, and the elephant jerky comment is especially puerile, as well as pathetically ignorant. The commentary about PAWS and Pat Derby is completely inaccurate. Why don't you bother doing some research before posting such idiocy?

This entire Blog rant about the Philly Zoo contains so many misstatements it's ludicrous. The elephants there live horrible lives, they are chained, they are nothing more than slaves. Obviously you think that's fine, so a person such as yourself deserves no only pity, but contempt.

I try to be reasonable about these things, so I left the following reply:
Candace, thanks for coming, but I have a few disagreements with what you said.

The commentary about PAWS and Pat Derby is completely inaccurate. Why don't you bother doing some research before posting such idiocy?

I never heard of Pat Derby until I read the Inquirer article. The quotes and information about her come from the PAWS web site and other animal rights sites. It's clear to me that she is against the ownership and breeding of elephants as well as other animals. If that is "completely inaccurate," please explain.

Likewise, you made a general assertion that regarding the Philly Zoo I made "so many misstatements it's ludicrous." Such as what? I don't think I did much more than quote the Inquirer, and express my opinion that the zoos and sanctuaries have different philosophies. Zoos tend to believe it is not wrong to keep or breed elephants in captivity.

Characterizations like "idiocy," "nauseating" and "deserves []contempt" are simply ad hominem insults, and not persuasive.

As to the comment about jerky, I think it's quite obvious that Chocolatier meant it as humor.

But was it "pathetically ignorant"? Not if this is any indication:


As a South African, I have spent most of my childhood gnawing on sticks of biltong. These are strips or sticks of dried meat, usually spiced in a variety of ways: chilli/BBQ/spicy/plain etc. Biltong can be made from most game. There are different types of biltong: wet and fatty tends to be softer meat with more fat than usual while dry is usually tough and chewy. I discovered the best biltong I have ever tasted on my last trip to Kruger Park: Elephant biltong. It was the most tender, tasty biltong I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying?full in flavour and easy to chew. I highly recommend you try some of the varieties on offer. Many of the shops in the park now sell biltong from a variety of game ? everything from buffalo, to elephant to impala. Be daring and try something new!
I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting selling it at zoos, but it does appear to be sold in South Africa, as Chocolatier said.

Finally, I have to disagree with your assessment that zoo elephants are "slaves," as that's a misuse of the word.

No animal can legally be considered a slave. Only humans can be slaves, just as only humans can be robbed, murdered, or raped. The word "slave" in the context of animals may indicate a desire to eliminate the distinction between animals and humans. If that is what you think, I simply disagree.

Anyone who wants can feel free to weigh in; I just thought this deserved front page treatment, as I wouldn't want it thought that I am hiding criticism.

Much as I disagree with them, I'll say this for the animal rights activists. They don't hesitate to let you know what they think. When I have written about the Philadelphia Zoo elephants, the activists who disagree have not hesitated to appear and tell me why.

Wish I could say the same for the anti-gun activists. They almost never come here -- no matter how many posts I might put up about the gun issue -- especially local attempts at gun control. (That last list of links was an abbreviated one, BTW.) They are certainly well organized, and they certainly aren't in short supply. So what gives? Why is it that anti-gun activists think people who disagree with them should simply be avoided, while AR activists think people who disagree with them should be confronted and debated?

Does anyone know?

UPDATE: Jeff Soyer (who devotes far more time to the gun issue than I do) notices that very few people attend anti-gun rallies.

Dozens! And half of them city council members....
Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes that "'dozens' pretty much counts as nobody in this context."

Hmmm..... Maybe I misspoke when I said they "certainly aren't in short supply" for they obviously are.

But how can that be? I mean, gun control is The Major Issue in the Philadelphia Inquirer! It's the One Single Biggest Issue On Which All Candidates Agree in Philadelphia's mayoral election. There are of course regular demonstrations that must be attended by all the candidates, plus the huge crowds, which I'm sure number into the dozens.

I guess it's a question of too much work, and not enough dozens to do it all. So it's probably unreasonable of me to expect them to behave like animal rights activists.

(I should try to be more understanding.)

posted by Eric on 04.02.07 at 08:57 AM


It would seem to me (and I admittedly fall in neither camp) that the willingness of the Animal Rights activists to debate, while the anti-gun lobby will not, is based on both a belief of correctness in each group and a feeling of empathy that they have potential to evoke.

ie: It is reasonably simply to create sympathy for 'life' regardless of whether that life is human or not. Very few people will side with someone who beats their dog, for example.

However, the argument against personal liberty - which does not directly concern life - ie: the gun control argument - is on much shakier ground because Gun Control Activists are aware they are lobbying against liberty, and are afraid to engage in debate as they know this will be brought to light.

Might not be right...but it seems plausible, no?

Liam   ·  April 2, 2007 9:50 AM

I think you're onto something there. No liberal wants to cop to not being liberal about something.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 2, 2007 10:55 AM

Gun control is one of a handful of issues that reminds us we live in a representative democracy, and not a plain old democracy. The fact is, gun control is pretty unpopular, but the political classes have convinced themselves that it is a good thing, so they've largely come to an agreement to simply agree on the issue, for the most part.

The same is true in most of Europe, re: the death penalty. Europeans want it, but their politicians have decided they should not have it, so that is the end of that.

Jon Thompson   ·  April 2, 2007 10:14 PM

I think there's a sense of urgency to Animal Rights activists that is missing in anti-gun activists because there are animals out there suffering every day that they are trying to save. You can see them while they suffer.

There's no real equivalent with gun control (there are crime victims, of course, but you can't point to one until it's too late).

My girlfriend is a reporter and one of her beats is animal stories. It's remarkable the liberties the animal people will take--call her at any time of the day or night, even when they know it's her day off, and expect her to drop everything and pursue their story. The level of dedication to animals (and lack of regard for humans) is impressive.

tim maguire   ·  April 3, 2007 2:59 PM

Tim, I'm reminded of my time working at a school newspaper in high school. We ran two stories about a month apart; one was about an orphaned dog, the other was about an orphaned child. We received over two-hundred responses from a school of two-thousand about the dog, asking how to donate money (and a few simply sending cash and checks to us; we had to return it all, sadly), wanting to adopt it, etc. On the kid? Nothing. No one wrote in to send money or ask how they could help.

Jon Thompson   ·  April 3, 2007 8:54 PM

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