Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Lucy the elephant shall remain alone, in physical and psychological pain, destined to die prematurely, in the Edmonton Zoo. That’s the impact of a ruling issued Thursday by the highest court in Alberta, Canada. Two of its three judges said courts are not the appropriate venue for such an animal rights debate.
Their rationale may have been legally precise. But their ruling was definitely morally wrong.
Lucy was seized from her mother some 35 years ago in Sri Lanka and shipped to one of North America’s coldest cities to be a caged “attraction.” Confronted year after year by a freezing world of ice and snow, her feet stumbled unstably on the zoo’s icy ground.
Elephants — especially female elephants — are social creatures. Lucy briefly had one companion, but then Samantha was shipped to North Carolina.
Aside from loneliness, respiratory infections (caused by the extreme cold air) seriously threaten Lucy’s health. She has rheumatoid arthritis and chronic foot infections. Like other captive elephants, she is susceptible to a range of other ailments foreign to their wild counterparts: obesity, psychological illness and deadly herpes infections.
Hasn’t Lucy suffered long enough? Doesn’t she deserve the chance to retire — to heal — in a place that can finally offer her comfort, dignity, companionship and a life worth living? She could go to one of two elephant sanctuaries in the United States for free; animal activists, including Bob Barker, have pledged to sponsor Lucy’s transportation and care.
But the Edmonton Zoo and the city officials who oversee the facility don’t want to let their star attraction go. It seems they would rather have Lucy die miserably in captivity than have a peaceful retirement.
In her dissenting opinion, the Alberta court’s Chief Justice Catherine Fraser argued:
“The city’s treatment of Lucy over a number of years raises serious issues about the scope of the protection accorded to animals in our society and who, if anyone, is entitled to access the courts on their behalf to protect them from mistreatment, and on what basis. It also raises questions whether the executive branch of government may ever be held accountable by the people in the civil courts for its non-compliance with animal welfare legislation.”
Fraser gives eloquent voice to compassion. Her two counterparts on the bench, unshaken in their by-the-book zeal, maintain Lucy’s welfare is not their business. They might be coldly correct, but justice has not been served.