Letter to the editor: Regarding the petting zoo on campus

Connie Corzilius Spasser | Brown School of Social Work

To the Editor:

As a staff member of Washington University, I would like to express my disappointment and displeasure regarding the “petting zoo” hosted by the Congress of the South 40.

Setting aside the fact that students may have been endangered by contact with an unvaccinated animal, I would like to address the ethical implications—and irony—of subjecting animals to the stress of continuous handling by strangers in order to “relieve” the stress of students facing finals. Petting zoos are premised on the exploitation of animals for human entertainment. It is not surprising that a local Walmart would host such an event, given the company’s track record of labor and sourcing practices; however, a petting zoo has no place at a university that offers vegan cuisine to its students and promotes stewardship of the environment. That a bear cub might have been killed because of human irresponsibility further underscores the exploitative nature of this event.

Finally, although the students who contacted PETA had laudable intentions, it must be noted here that the organization euthanizes more than 90 percent of the dogs and cats that are surrendered to its “shelter” in Norfolk—1,792 in 2013 alone, according to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services figures. PETA will no doubt garner publicity and donations from this bear cub’s death, as that is the organization’s greatest skill, but it is scarcely the beacon of animal rights that it purports to be.

I hope that those involved will rethink their decision and refrain from endorsing the exploitation of these animals in the future.

Connie Corzilius Spasser
Brown School of Social Work