Confronting Captivity Conference
I attended the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) Conference in Burbank, California, November 9,10,11. I attended in 2010 when it was held at their San Andreas Sanctuary where the tigers and elephants reside. They have another sanctuary in Galt, which houses all other rescued species.
The conference is held for the purpose of improving the lives of animals held in captivity (confinement) by noticing and addressing their needs, health: physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. Captivity meaning sanctuary, zoo's, and entertainment. This conference focused primarily on the captivity of large mammals: Elephants, Bears, Big Cats and Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises, orca's – which are actually dolphins, not whales). Alternatively, the fate and health of these species in the wild was discussed as well.
Many experts spoke ranging from those currently running sanctuaries, those that have worked in zoo's and entertainment, attorney's, scientists and even the current field of virtual reality and augmented reality. Sanctuaries rescue animals that have been living in impoverished situations and the results are undeniably the best living situation for an animal in a captive situation. Attorney's spoke about the challenges, current legislative work and successes they encounter in the field of animal rights. A variety of scientists spoke ranging from their behavior, social groups and pathology in the wild versus captivity, their natural range versus space allotted in captivity to the neuron's themselves within species. The field of virtual reality and augmented reality was especially fascinating because it gives the user of the technology the opportunity of truly being there with the animals in their natural habitat. That would be a great way to promote conservation, provide people the experience of being their in the wild if they can not go themselves as well as to cease putting animals in captivity.
The conference had a focus on compassion, empathy and what we as humans need to consider regarding other species. I know from my own experience that there is a huge difference observing an animal in a zoo or entertainment versus observation in the wild or a sanctuary. My hope is one day we stop using them as things. They have emotions and thoughts, and they desire the freedom to make choices, just as we do.