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Knowland Update

Knowland at PETA

Monday, October 22, 2012: Oakland, CA

Last night the Oakland branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) invited Julia and I to speak at a screening of our documentary film Knowland. Some thirty of their members showed up to the event.

It was the first time Julia and I had sat in a room filled with strangers watching our film. We were both a bit nervous, but as it turned out for no reason as the film was received well. In fact people laughed and chuckled at all the places they were supposed to. And no one got up and left, which is always a positive sign.

After the screening Julia and I, and two experts from the film, took questions from the audience. Laura Baker, former Conservation Chair, of the California Native Plant Society, East Bay Chapter and Lindsay Rajt, Associate Director of Campaigns, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) joined us on the panel. We took many lively and insightful questions for over an hour; another good sign I feel.

It is an interesting phenomenon to me that good people, people who would not want animals hurt or mistreated, support zoos. The reason, I am finding out, is just ignorance of the facts. What I am discovering is that in most cases when you present these people with the facts about zoos they begin to rethink their opinions. They begin to understand that keeping wild animals in captivity for exhibition is not supportive of animal welfare. They slowly come to realize that a zoo's business model is based on the ongoing capture and confinement of wild animals for profit. Most are very surprised that zoos do not successfully educate people about animal welfare and conservation. We learnt, while researching our film, that studies show that visiting zoos has no effect on changing children or adult's views about conservation. In fact when you look at the tax record of zoos you find that most spend more on face-painting than anything remotely related to conservation.

See my film Knowland and find out more about the Oakland Zoo's plans to destroy native California habitat so they can expand their outdated and torturous business model.

Vote no on measure A1.

• In 2001, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums ("AZA") set out to measure the impact of zoo visits on visitors" "conservation-related knowledge, attitude, affect and behavior." Ex. 71, Lynn D. Dierking, Visitor Learning in Zoos and Aquariums: Executive Summary, AZA, at i (2001-2002). The study concluded that while zoos might have the potential to impact positively guests" conservation knowledge, affect and behavior, "these claims were not substantiated or validated by actual research."

• A survey at Rosamond Gifford Zoo reported in AZA's Communiqué in 2003 by the zoo's then-president, Dr. Anne Baker, showed that the zoo's guests were not looking for a serious educational experience. Instead, the public reported overwhelmingly that a visit to the zoo meant quality time with family members and fun. Ex. 73, Lisa Kane, Contemporary Zoo Elephant Management: Captive to a 19th Century Mission, in AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: THE SCIENCE AND WELL-BEING OF ELEPHANTS IN CAPTIVITY 87, 94 (Debra L. Forthman et al. eds., 2009) (citing Anne Baker, From the President, 3 COMMUNIQUÉ (Dec. 2003)).

• In 2006, a comprehensive study was conducted at five UK zoos aimed at directly measuring the educational impact of a zoo visit. Visitors were asked questions before and after a visit to assess their (1) conservation knowledge; (2) commitment to conservation; and (3) capacity to get involved. No statistically significant changes were measured across the five sites, with the exception of one zoo in which visitors seemed to have a heightened awareness of how they might contribute to conservation. This anomaly was later thought to be an artifact of visitors being in a hurry to enter and therefore being less accurate in their first round of answers than they would have been otherwise, so that it appeared that their knowledge improved after the visit more than it had. Ex. 74, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Welfare State: Measuring Animal Welfare In The UK 2006, at 95-96 (2006).

• Another study conducted at Lincoln Park Zoo's gorilla and chimpanzee exhibits showed that departing guests demonstrated significantly more knowledge about gorillas and chimpanzees than those entering the zoo. However, frequent exhibit visitors were no more knowledgeable than first-time visitors, suggesting that this improvement was shortlived. Sadly, no change in attitudes about gorillas or chimpanzees was found. Again, this lack of improved attitude was absent whether zoo guests were first-time or frequent visitors. Ex. 75, K. E. Lukas & S. R. Ross, Zoo Visitor Knowledge and Attitudes Gorillas and Chimpanzees, 36 JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION 33, 33-34, 41, 46-47 (2005).

• In terms of affecting zoo guest action, one study at Brookfield Zoo failed to detect a significant effect on visitors" intent to get involved in conservation even after multiple visits to an exhibit called The Swamp. Ex. 76, Carol D. Saunders & H. Elizabeth Stuart Perry, Summative Evaluation of the Swamp: a Conservation Exhibit with a Big Idea, XII VISITOR BEHAVIOR 4, 5-6 (1997).

• Zoo Atlanta investigated whether its interactive elephant exhibit encouraged active support for elephant conservation. Visitors leaving the zoo were asked to take an already stamped postcard and send it to the White House expressing their views on whether or not the United States should continue its moratorium on the ivory trade. Only 5.9 percent of those who saw the zoo's elephant show and experienced the interactive elephant display at the zoo mailed the cards. Zoo visitors who saw neither returned the cards at a rate of 3.8 percent. Ex. 77, Jeffrey S. Swanagan, Factors Influencing Zoo Visitors" Conservation Attitudes and Behavior, 31 JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION 26, 26-30 (2000).

• Visitors to Monterey Bay Aquarium reported improved understanding and attitude towards conservation. They also showed an improved commitment to conservation but this had disappeared several months later. Ex. 78, L. Adelman et al., Impact of National Aquarium in Baltimore on Visitors" Conservation Attitudes, Behavior, and Knowledge, 43 CURATOR 33-61 (2000).

• Visitors to San Francisco's UnderWater World Aquarium were asked if they thought that they had learned anything (rather than directly testing their knowledge) and a majority, 78%, felt they had not. Ex. 79, Aline H. Kidd & Robert M. Kidd, Aquarium Visitors" Perceptions and Attitudes toward the Importance of Marine Biodiversity, 81 PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORTS 1083-88 (1997)


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