Saturday, September 4, 2010

It was the best of outings, it was the worst of outings...

We spent last weekend in Rochester, New York, and while John worked I planned fun and exciting things to do with the kids. I feel like it isn't fair to drag them along on these trips unless I make it about them, at least a little bit.

On Friday we visited the Strong National Museum of Play, which I've been looking forward to since we missed it on our last trip.

It was everything I hoped it would be - in fact, I'd say it is worth a trip to Rochester in and of itself if you're a children's museum addict like I am!

There was so much to do for kids of all ages, and things were very reasonably priced. There was an area with all sorts of cooperative games, which kids of all ages could participate in.

There is a fairy tale room, a Sesame Street room, a butterfly garden, a superhero room, a Berenstain Bears room, a classic toy museum upstairs, a train ride and a carousel, cozy reading nooks and books all over the place...I could go on and on, but better you go see it for yourself! Bess describes it as "the coolest place ever!" and I am inclined to agree with her.

Then, instead of following my instincts to go back there on Saturday, I decided to take the kids to Seneca Park Zoo.

I've written before about my zoo ambivalence, but yet I still find myself going back - sort of like taking both kids into Manhattan or eating deep fried Oreos, I need to do it every once in awhile to remind myself why I don't like to do it.

First of all, the setup was really weird. It was long and narrow, so it was a long walk out to see the furthest (and coolest) animals, and a loooooong walk back. Harry chose that day to express his terrible two-ness, and let me assure you, dragging a screaming toddler outside in the heat around is not so much fun. In fact, I'm noticing a pattern here - Harry was miserable the last time we went to a zoo, too. Hmmmmm...

Anyway, the zoo is not one of the better ones around. The enclosures are small and the animals are alone or in small groups, smaller than they would normally be found in were they living in the wild. There are a lot of primates there, which I find especially painful to see.

I get the whole education/preservation thing, and I believe that zoos can be done in a relatively humane way with respect for the animals who live there. I can't exactly say I don't support that, though I also can't exactly say that I do. I believe that the people who work in zoos love the animals and the environment, and work very hard. Some places are sanctuaries that rescue and rehabilitate animals who could not live in the wild, and I think that can be pretty cool. However, I also think that putting money into maintaining these populations, and their habitats, in the wild where they belong would be a better use of our resources. That, and I simply can't get past the lives of the individual animals who live their lives in isolation and captivity in the name of education.

What do you think?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website

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