Thursday, May 09, 2002

privacy in the national zoo
Interesting news from the National Zoo, run by the Smithsonian Institute. A request for medical records for a giraffe who died recently was refused on the grounds that the Zoo is protecting the privacy of the animal. The response raises a number of questions, (and the article covering it starts to delve into government secrecy issues outside of the original scope of the article).

How much privacy can an animal in a zoo have? Is the privacy being protected that of the giraffe, or of the people who cared for the giraffe?
Harvard University's Laurence Tribe, who supports the introduction of legislation to permit people or certain groups to legally represent animals subject to abuse, said that the least likely designee to protect an animal's welfare is a zookeeper.

"It is sort of the fox guarding the hen house," Tribe said. "They are clearly the ones whose neglect or mistreatment might be at issue."
When we find ourselves starting to make statements about protecting animals' rights to privacy, shouldn't we begin asking ourselves whether we have a right to hold those animals in zoos?

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