© Heather Clemenceau
Written by: Heather Clemenceau
As the world now knows, the lone Bowmanville Zoo asian elephant Limba, has been humanely euthanized. Animal Advocates held a memorial for her across from the zoo property on December 7th. May she rest in peace.
As a result of our persistence in demonstrating against Limba’s circumstances at the zoo and in circuses, activists have continually been maligned in the media and even been the subject of physical altercations on public property. In some cases we are denied the use of public property with laughable justifications. Just today an interesting critique of activism in general crossed my newsfeed which outlines the paradox of activism – while activists are capable of being major forces for change, the harder we push for these changes, the more they alienate the people whose support we hope to win. While this is true, there are many situations where we must simply refute rampant propaganda and stop it in its tracks.
This blog has always been about presenting factually sourced information about animals we love (or my opinion supported by facts), as a counter to deceptive propaganda techniques, logical fallacies, and even lies. While the opportunity to enlighten with facts is irresistible to me, there are also times when ridicule becomes the only defence that can be used against unintelligible propositions or personal attacks.
I think it’s important to identify who the real extremists are in this debate – the minority of people who make wild accusations and unsubstantiated claims – people who decide that ignoring us is best but then find that they cannot follow their own advice. Reasonable, rational people who are not fact-challenged, UNDERSTAND, even if they do not ACCEPT. No one cares if you ACCEPT our statements about the inequity of keeping elephants in Canada, only that you UNDERSTAND the response. Blaming the messenger never changes the facts, because a fact cannot be insolent – and people really have no right to be offended merely because they don’t like or agree with said fact. If some of you are going to argue badly, why bother to do it at all? Too many people on pro-parade pages are merely mimicking what rational discussion sounds like to them.
So here’s a selection of statements taken verbatim from pro-parade pages and media interviews, and I have original screen caps (or links) for all and have altered nothing. Spelling and grammar are the original poster’s own of course. My responses follow in bold.
“Bring extra $$$, never know if you drive over a nail and get a flat….or 4.”
And with this quote we have one of the defining statements of the town – in other words, if you come to our small-minded community and we object to you, your car might just meet with an accident.
“Like almost all elephants, Limba likes snow.”
Have “almost all elephants” been interviewed to determine their opinion of snow? How do you even describe snow to an elephant who may never have seen it? And what about the elephants who are on record for not actually liking snow? Do they have the option not to be captured or bred and sent to a cold climate, like say, Alaska? In all likelihood, elephants may not mind the snow at all, but probably very much dislike the cold temperatures that come with it. Studies indicate that elephants have a limited ability to adapt to wide temperature ranges, as their bodies are unable to insulate (add fat) or adjust to extremes in temperature. Elephants have evolved to live in temperate and tropical climates, and are at risk if subjected to consistently cold temperatures, as, once chilled, they are unable to gain sufficient heat to warm themselves, which is why most of them must remain confined to heated barns for the majority of the winter.
“I bet you these are the same people poisoning our dogs and mutilating our cats.”
I googled “bowmanville cat mutilation” but nothing popped up though. But perhaps instead of interrupting a memorial that required police intervention, you should be asking the police to look into these unsolved mutilations and poisonings. Just a thought.
“When it is too cold out she does laps indoors to warm up first.”
Why do I picture Olivia Newton John from the video “Physical” with leg warmers in a wet sauna?
“People you need to remember “activists” are extremists. They bomb things and set things on fire and chain themselves to things drag their children out with signs around their necks in harms way etc. “
But we leave the tire slashin’ up to the locals……..
“that bitch limba been livin and doin the same shit for years, she an og on the block in bville, aint no bitches from peta comin and takin are nigga limba, go suck ur moms.”
I get that, for some people, “nigga” can be a term of endearment. But I’m going to assume that “go suck ur moms” is not.
“They hope to brainwash our children.”
No, we leave that up to commie hacks like Big Bird, Ernie and Bert.
“This is about them wanting Limba to be sent to a sanctuary PAWS where other elephants reside in California where the weather is unpredictable fires everywhere and now radiation with possibility of being wiped off the face of the plant.”
Yes, let’s rescue all the animals of any species who currently reside in California. In fact, animals should only live in countries where there are no natural disasters. And I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the weather, even in northern California, is far more suitable for an elephant than it is in Canada.
“rich ppl and celebrities can gawk at them even spend the night with them. Such a cruel cruel world.”
The person making this remark was referring to the Toronto Zoo elephants who were relocated to the PAWS sanctuary. The Bville groups on Facebook are undeniably made up of people who support private ownership of tigers and monkeys and other exotic animals, quite often from the US. I don’t see how being viewed a few times a year is “cruel” compared to being viewed 200 days of the year and being trucked around as part of a circus. Methinks your concern is misplaced.
“Oh yes, threatening the safety of children at a Santa Claus Parade is definitely the vision you want people to have of Bowmanville!”
For god’s sake, think of the children! Your parade is over, you can stop marching now.
“Stalking a poor innocent town with discrimination, threats, and childish name calling.”
Stalking a town? Bowmanville/Newcastle has a population of about 44,000 people. I think that’d be a pretty tall order even for the most determined stalker. And no one has discriminated against the entire town. But you don’t have a problem with people from your town who protest a MEMORIAL? That’s actually a tactic of the Westboro Baptist Church……..
“This is ridiculous, arrogant fools, Limba had a great life. FUCK YOU for saying differently.”
In that case, let me reciprocate your middle finger.
“wheels on the bus go round and round.” (Made in reference to a question about taking a bus to the memorial)
But the gears in your head need a little WD-40…..
“the protesters are actually less than a dozen people with multiple fake profiles pretending there is a lot more of them.”
This comment is laughably ironic since it’s been made by a person who uses multiple personalities on Facebook. Thanks for destroying another irony meter; I’m really wracking up the bills on these things.
“She walks around lifts her leg and looks pretty and in return has all the necessities of life supplied to her. In the wild if she doesn’t work she starves and dies.”
I’m glad this person made this comment, since it allows me to factually address what are the “necessities of life” for an elephant. Our issue has always been that Limba didn’t have all the necessities of life given to her other than basic subsistence, veterinary care, and interaction with her keeper. To be fair, I think that Limba’s keeper Robert provided her with a good deal of enrichment and tried (and succeeded) in making her life better. But there is only one picture of Limba on this page – if looking at it doesn’t make you wonder if we could do better, then you might be missing a sensitivity chip. Perhaps some elephants, if they could choose, would prefer to live in a large zoo facility rather than experience poaching and predation in the wild, but they can’t exactly tell us this. We’ve kept animals locked in cages since early civilizations. They were kept for the amusement of man, without consideration to the welfare of the animals, and we were either unaware or indifferent to their needs, both physical and psychological.
The idea that a zoo is automatically the best repository for an animal is passé. We do however, need to aggressively confront the issues concerning animals in the wild, and we need to leave the majority of them where we found them – they make up a vast gene pool for future evolutionary processes. They supply other species with food, recycle nutrients essential to agriculture, and help generate and maintain soils. Moreover, they detoxify poisonous substances, break down organic wastes, and control potential crop pests and disease carriers.
Other species depend on the elephant for their survival – one example of this commensal relationship is that of the elephant and the termite. Termites need the elephant for both housing and food; termites eat elephant feces and build their mounds underneath piles of elephant feces. Elephants also clear areas for new trees and other forms of vegetation to grow, helping to continue the life cycle for plants and other animals. They also clear paths through difficult terrain and make way for other species to relocate to different areas. When they die, the breakdown of biological matter is essential for perpetuation of the carbon/phosphorus/sulphur/oxygen/nitrogen cycles, without which life on earth would cease. My own view is that each wild species has an inherent right to play its role in the ongoing evolution of life on earth until and unless it becomes extinct without interference by humans. Despite the hardships experienced by animals surviving in the face of human encroachment, we can’t achieve all the ecological benefits provided by animals by keeping them in zoos. Aside from this, about 95% of all zoos don’t actually participate in introduction or re-introduction programs – animals they breed are usually retained for other zoos or circuses.
“So someone is caring for a socially awkward elephant that enjoys the company of people that was previously abused and your going to protest it.”
Once again, please refer to the lone picture of Limba in this blog post. While I am glad Limba had a companion who was devoted to her and who loved her, we need to ask ourselves whether she needed to be shipped across the country for circuses, weddings, winery events and so forth. I’m sure she enjoyed being with Robert, but perhaps she did not enjoy these other things? Even animals that are not adequately socialized with their own species have a need to be present as part of a group. Female elephants stay together in family units. There are numerous pictures of Limba with other elephants and even if she was not a dominant animal in a herd environment, humans cannot replace that social order. She seemed to be friends with another elephant – Tarra. It has also been shown that elephants are capable of self-recognition, which is exceedingly rare in the animal kingdom.
“How many of you protesters keep wild animals in your homes? I bet most of you have either cats or dogs. A shame that you would force a beautiful creature like a cat or dog to live in doors captive unable to roam free and be happy.”
Where I live there are bylaws against allowing animals to foam free. And if you look up above, there’s a person complaining that someone is mutilating and poisoning dogs and cats in Bville, so it seems like letting them roam is not a particularly good idea. I don’t advise keeping actual wild animals in anyone’s home either – you only have to look to the IKEA monkey affair as an example of why that doesn’t have the potential to work out so well legally or practically.
And in the event that the o-post was sarcasm, let me just say that there are vast differences between tamed wild animals and domesticated animals. Geneticist George Price, of Price’s Theorem fame, defined domestication as a process by which population of animals becomes adapted to man and the environment as a result of genetic mutation, neurochemical changes, and environmentally induced developmental changes. In long-term selection experiments designed to study the consequences of selection for the “tame” domesticated type of behaviour, Belyaev et al. (1981) studied foxes reared for their fur. The red fox (Vulpes fulva) has been raised on seminatural fur farms for over 100 years and was selected for fur traits and not behavioural traits. The objective of this experiment was to breed animals similar in behaviour to the domestic dog. By selecting and breeding the tamest individuals, 20 years later the experiment succeeded in turning wild foxes into tame “dogs.”
While Price and Belyaev were refining the principles of conditioning on animals, ethology – the study of the way genes are modified during evolution to deal with particular environments, was a developing science. Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen cataloged the behaviour of many animals in their natural environments. Together they developed the ethogram. An ethogram is a complete listing of all the behaviours that an animal performs in its natural environment. It includes both innate and learned behaviours – hard-wired programs versus experience and learning. People intent on insisting that Limba was a social misfit who had no interest in other elephants don’t seem to know or wish to acknowledge that even animals with large, complex brains are still governed by innate behaviour patterns. As these studies have shown, instantaneous pets are not created via short-term human influence, regardless of whether dog or elephant is the subject matter.
“You people are freaks!”
Name-calling and mocking are behaviours individuals exhibit when they lack the skills needed to handle a particular situation and are utterly out of ideas. Bertrand Russell also said that the problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but the wiser people are so full of doubts.
“is it ok if I start a thread about how you beat up school kids I don’t have proof.”
I guess that the moral to be taken from this comment is that if you can’t win an argument on its merits, then make something up.
“They are going to attack Limba so that some one gets hurt! They are now setting sights on the camels, so be forewarned!” Does it make sense to claim they are all about the well being of Limba and then they threaten to scare and instigate her into running amok?”
Do you have monsters under your bed? I mean, with all this fear mongering? It’s more than a touch unreasonable. No animal advocate would ever try to spook an elephant, and of course there’s that pesky little matter of proof of any such statement being made by our group, which seems to escape so many pro-parade people.
© Heather Clemenceau
“My daughter was excited to see Limba in the parade. How am I supposed to explain to her that city council are a bunch of pricks?”
Some parade-goers were concerned about how to explain protesters’ signs to their kids. They claimed that it would be awkward and the kids might be scared, but what would really be awkward is the discomfort the parents would experience. Because the parents took Limba to Applefest and allowed their kids to ride around on her back, but they didn’t notice she had diarrhea, some of them now feel bad when they were told that Limba was sick, because guilt is now setting in. But if you can’t handle kids seeing signs, which might make them aware that there are some members of society willing to speak up for others, then how can you explain that council are pricks? I don’t know either, but good luck.
“We should go for a beer after the parade. Bring the blonde tart with you.”
The more I see your posts, the more I realize I’m in need of some sort of prophylactic.
“I’ll see all you protesters there on Saturday, I’ll be the one spraying you with the water guns so you better bring an umbrella.”
And you better bring $500 bucks so that the lawyer you normally use for traffic court can help you make bail.
“I watched one of their so called meetings, it took place in someones mothers basement….the two girls looked like they didn’t have a brain between them….” and
“Do you have a boyfriend or husband? Because if so, he needs to put a muzzle on you.”
Sexism and the occasional anti-female post rear their ugly heads on the pro-parade Facebook pages. If you were paying attention to the video discussion, you would have noticed that at least one of the “girls” had a masters degree in a biological field. Somewhat surprisingly, the latter statement is made by a woman who doesn’t realize how misogynist her remarks are. But consider the message – women (or feminists) might want to reconsider speaking out and if not, we’ll get the “manosphere” to keep you in line.
“southern Ontario is the same distance from the North Pole as Northern California.”
How about comparing the temperature between Vietnam (Limba’s birthplace) and Bowmanville? This isn’t difficult. I can tell you that the temperature in Vietnam never gets close to 0 degrees C.
“I see all the people who want limba out of the parade are cowards…..I would copy all thenames and pictures of these people put them on a poster and put in everyones door, and postoffice and every store window, on every pole in town, so the people will know who these cowards, idiots are, and if there car gets flat tires, egged, broken mirror, or spray painted. They all would be unsolved cases. Make them uncomfortable in Bomanville, store keepers can and should refuse to serve them, refuse to sell them things, such as food etc. If they need to stay in hotels, motels, refuse them.”
I think that was what one of the pro-zoo people was actually starting to do, when Don Corleone started photographing cars belonging to the memorial participants. Maybe our faces will all start appearing on milk cartons in the near future. But when the police were called to respond to an assault, they instead made us move our cars, because it might have a negative effect on the grass……no wonder there are unsolved dog poisonings and cat mutilations in Btown……. As a result of this extreme concern for grass in a parking lot, I can only surmise that once it was realized there were chalk writings and stray rose petals on the sidewalk, the town’s hazmat emergency response team arrived with their MSDS sheets to deal with these hazards and subsequent hazardous waste disposal.
© Heather Clemenceau
“I’m really hoping that this protesting stuff doesn’t ruin the spirit of Christmas.”
Yeah, it would really suck if concern for a sick animal got in the way of your party time.
“Retards more like, they need to get jobs and do something productive.”
The hallmark of a feeble mind unable to express itself in any effective manner. When I see the term “retards” used I have to wonder about the person who made the statement. Do they not realize that there are many mothers who find this term terribly hurtful? The term “retard” can also be taken to apply to those who have had a stroke affecting their speech, the hard of hearing, and people who have cognitive difficulties. What’s also surprising was the fact that 8 people liked this post – and it was allowed to stand on the pro-parade page. You’d think someone from that group would step up and enlighten this person, but it didn’t happen. I guess it’s hard to enlighten somebody else when you don’t know right from wrong either.
“My uncle lost his life so that we could have Santa Claus parades.”
Because that’s what WWII was all about.
“This is their idiot plan + Stampede the animals by shouting on megaphones, wildly waving signs and rushing the animals. The animals get spooked. Because of the recent Darwin the IKEA monkey decision any wild animal running around outside of the zoo is “owned” by whoever catches it. I bet they will try to make Limba spook and grab her by the trunk!”
I hate to throw shade on your statements but none of that ever happened. I know you were hoping to work everyone into a frenzy over this, but you set yourself up for a colossal failure. I hope people go back and read your comments and realize how foolish they were in hindsight. You’re like a bad psychic that can’t get a single prediction correct, and now your comments are circling the drain.
“Do you realize how thick their skin is? They might feel pressure from the hook being pressed against them but they certainly don’t feel pain from it.”
At first I thought this guy was initially writing about the pro-parade people, but he was actually referring to elephants themselves. In most areas, the elephant’s skin may be 2.5 to 3 cms thick, but in other areas it is fairly thin. Thickness of the skin shouldn’t be confused with sensitivity though – their skin has rich nerve endings and like most animals who are bothered excessively by flies – elephants also notice every fly that lands on them, so they will surely feel a bullhook.
“Well I have seen them in action on a number of occasions and there is nothing peaceful about them.”
So says the person who was thrown out of the IKEA monkey trial at the Oshawa courthouse for being disruptive. That fringe should be on a surrey. Watch that fringe and see how it flutters.
“Last summer, a bunch of them took photos of anyone entering the zoo, yelled insults at them and posted their photos all over the Internet.”
This is such a vague phrase – “all over the internet.” Problem is that if called upon to find these alleged pictures, nobody can point them out, despite them being “all over the internet.” A lack of evidence is in itself, evidence. And to put this in the appropriate context, several people associated with the IKEA monkey trial and their so-called documentary (probably being produced on an 3G iPhone) deliberately came to the zoo when they knew there was a protest going on. If anyone was videotaped or photographed, it was on public property and it occurred in order to document that they sought to follow animal advocates and harass us and not the other way around. And besides, there are numerous examples whereby animal advocates have had their photos stolen and appropriated. In this blog post, I’ve included several comments from the “Darwin IKEA Monkey hoard,” a group of people who harassed a primate sanctuary before and after the trial ended badly for them. None of these people had even heard of Limba before they started trailing animal advocates around at protests and following our postings and movements on Facebook.
“Here is an idea. If you know who these people are, start boycotting their businesses. Since they are trying to shut down the Bowmanville Zoo, let’s see how they enjoy it when people are aware of where they work and suddenly information flyers are handed out to people (on the public sidewalk) who enter their work place? Something to the effect of, “Did you know that this person is an activist who wants to shut down the Bowmanville Zoo?”
© Heather Clemenceau
This is truly one of the dumbest ideas yet; it’s safe to say that, at the fountain of knowledge, this person only gargled. If people actually tried to carry this out, they would probably be charged with mischief at the very least. And it quite often has the opposite effect. Each protester is a private individual, unlike the zoo, which is a public entity, and Michael Hackenberger, whom it could be argued is a public figure.
No one protests in front of Michael Hackenberger’s private home, his kids’ school, or at his wife’s veterinary clinic because there is this concept called privacy. Recall the famously cringe-worthy video of the woman who spent eight minutes berating Dunkin’ Donuts employees, ending in a racist epithet — which she posted online herself because she thought she had been slighted for not receiving a receipt. Not surprisingly, the internet response to her video was to shame her, which, suffice to say, was not the reason she made the video in the first place. Any rights of free speech were never intended to be authorization for people to “indict”, “try”, “judge” and pass sentence on any individual. This poster really ought to try reading the Constitution and if that is too long for them, then just read section 2(c).
“Dimwits! Police can look on their FB pages and see the anarchist symbols plastered all over, make a list and prepare to arrest them on parade day.”
But police won’t be doing any of that. Because there is no “Facebook Butthurt” division that you can call up to report Facebook insults. If there were, I know a few people who would be shuffled away and put on a thorazine drip right now. Even if someone had an anarchist symbol on their Facebook page, it’s not grounds for arrest, unless perhaps you lived during the time of the Gulag.
“I saw the threats they were making on their facebook page, and hoping police had their guns ready. Have police contact them personally and tell them they are not welcome. Have them charged for uttering threats!”
There’s a serious hole in your argument – no threats were uttered. Anyone I’ve asked to show proof of all these threats can’t come up with a single link. Maybe you’ve been watching too many westerns – the sheriffs in those days did sometimes ask people not to pass through town.
“OK, let me get this straight…The ARA has taken over the zoos page and making threats?!”
No, but there is a page entitled “Bowmanville Zoological Park – Free Limba.” I suggest reading the entire title before assuming that animal advocates hacked into the BZoo page.
“I am an animal lover……..Why don’t you just give the Bowmanville Zoo the benefit of the doubt?”
Usually when someone starts off with the phrase “I am an animal lover,” you know what follows will often reveal them to be anything but.
“vegan athiest has his hypocritical gang of protesters should have been arrested for harassment, stalkin, trespassing. No one cares what they have to say and they are not welcome in Bowmanville (or Toronto too) What is the point of protesting when non one wants to hear their anarchist crap. Careful when they are around your cars, a bunch of zoo supporters had our cars keyed and nasty notes on the windshield. One supporter was punched in the eye by the leader of the anarchists 6 months ago. Another who writes their terrorist blog brought a knife, syringe, and vials of unknown liquid to a fundraiser and told security she wanted to see a bunch of us in person. Beware – they really are dangerous. Be careful, they photograph you and your cars and plan who to target at the next protest. They are violent. They do commit property damage too. My office was vandalized by them the night before I planned to present a petition to their leader at ZooCheck.”
Normally our friend from the IKEA monkey trial likes to drop names, but didn’t do it for this post, because even she knows that it’s totally batshit cray-cray. Your office vandalized? Got a police report? How about a police report for an assault? Why don’t you scan those notes you said were left on your vehicles and post them online? Must be the only things you haven’t posted…..A knife, syringe and vials of unknown liquid? You fell asleep after eating too many spicy nachos while watching Dexter and hallucinated the whole thing, right? And if I’m the “terrorist blogger” you mention, I can only wonder how your security team let me get away from a fundraiser with a knife, syringe, and vials of unknown liquid. I must be some kind of ninja! And of course, there’s no police report for this either. And you missed your date with Zoocheck because they found out that you and your crackpot friends were coming to the library to harass them, so they changed the date of their presentation and kept it on the down-low, so you and your friends showed up at the library with your signs ON THE WRONG DAY. Caveat – don’t use these people for party-planning.
“I watched a video one person made sneaking around fences on the zoo property and the person was talking almost hysterical and excited in hopes of finding some type of animal abuse, they were really looking forward to it, it was really disturbing, of course they found no abuse, but they were still so excited they videotaped……..nothing.”
You left a comment on my blog about this video that I made, but I never published it because it was whack. Were you referring to me and my video, published in this blog? I called you out (anonymously) and posted your comment in that blog as well. The video is not at all about me skulking around looking for abuse. I stated clearly that I was observing to see if the giraffes were spooked by the megaphone being used during a protest. I spoke to Michael Hackenberger about the giraffes and their enclosure and that’s it. It was completely by accident that he happened to be there and spoke to me. Of course the video revealed nothing because there was no drama – the giraffes did not even notice the megaphone. But you just got busted again making shit up, Drama Llama!
“You’ve got to breed your females or they get uterine cancer.”
This statement originated from an interview given by Michael Hackenberger after Limba’s death. This seems to be a justification for captive breeding programs for elephants which incidentally, do nothing to re-populate wild elephant herds, but only reproduce elephants for zoos or circuses. Statements that elephants must be bred in order to avoid cancer are, in my opinion, meant to strengthen Hackenberger’s position with pro-circus followers and also give him a platform on which to promote this uncertain claim about Limba’s cancer to the general public.
What’s interesting is that there are virtually no studies on reproductive cancers with elephants, perhaps because it’s not that common – most of them don’t live long enough in captivity to develop cancers anyway. On Pubmed, there are only 7 studies that mention uterine cancer or cancer of the uterus or other reproductive disorders in elephants, so not really very much is known about cancer in elephants, much less cancers that involve the reproductive system. And anyway, what we know about cancer in elephants is that it is really rare. So how can we conclude that breeding prevents cancer? If we can apply any data from other species of animals, we know that spaying reduces the incidences of mammary tumours, so it follows that some types of cancers may be avoided by NOT breeding. And one piece of the data puzzle that is lacking about Limba’s cancer is whether uterine cancer and the other tumors found via necropsy are primary or secondary to the mass near the spleen that was found approximately one month before she died. If the uterine cancer is secondary, then the theory that breeding prevents cancer would seem to have been refuted.
Photo of Limba taken while she was travelling with a circus. Most rational people will look at this photo and realize that this is not right. RIP See Petition here
Now that I’m done refuting the pro-parade positions, I want to ask the advocacy community to realize that we have also made some unfair and negative comments – lest the reader think the pro-parade people are the only ones guilty of bad behaviour, I’d like to ask that people refrain from making agitating or derogatory comments to and about Limba’s keeper Robert, who loved her dearly and must be in terrible pain. Whatever injustices happened to Limba in the past cannot be righted by unfair, negative commentary to and about Robert today or in the future. If you watch videos or look at pictures of their interaction, Limba moves toward Robert and he always looks toward her with a loving, benevolent look. Robert has been a very dedicated care-giver to Limba, and it’s sad to see pictures of him reliving their walks, making painstaking observations about her presence along their pathways. Seeing evidence of her everywhere is no doubt profoundly difficult. Hopefully he will find the peace that he needs to eventually move forward with his life. Both Robert and Limba are better for having known each other.
© Heather Clemenceau