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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 11, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Woodland Park Zoo “artists”

A confusing message in an exploitative industry

It seemed odd to read about the Woodland Park Zoo turning its animals into “artists” [“Zoo-animal art: from pachyderm exhibit to gallery exhibit,” Local News, Feb. 6].

For years, the zoo has accused animal advocates of inappropriately viewing animals as being like humans or “anthropomorphizing” them. And yet, here is the zoo making money off turning animals into “artists,” who “experiment with texture.”

Elephants are forcibly pressed into the “art industry” in Asia, where they are brutally beaten as part of their “training” until they produce paintings that can be sold for thousands of dollars. Recently, a baby elephant was removed from the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary in northern Thailand, to be turned into one of these “artists.”

At best, Woodland Park Zoo’s animal-artist program sends a confusing message to the public in the face of this brutal and exploitative industry.

None of the proceeds from this “art exhibit” will improve the quality of life for any of the zoo animals, but will, instead, fund a zookeeper conference.

— Nancy Farnam, Edmonds

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