Not too long ago (but what also seems like a lifetime ago) I ran my own business offering social media management and consulting services to small businesses and non-profits. One of those businesses was the Bowmanville Zoo.
You may have heard of some of the zoo’s monkey business as of late, which include swearing on live television, prompting Breakfast Television to announce that they would never visit the zoo again and the network to re-examine their policies around featuring animals in news segments and more recently, a video from PETA with some pretty serious allegations of animal abuse followed by a former employee’s own accusations of the same. Everyone from Buzzfeed, Vice, The Huffington Post, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, and more have all commented on the issue.
I haven’t. I have struggled to find words to explain my feelings in both cases. I have shared articles and have had many discussions with friends and family members about the zoo since our professional relationship ended rather tumultuously (for a different reason altogether). But when I worked with the zoo I wholly supported their work. I defended them during onslaught after onslaught of animal rights activists who criticized zoos in general and weren’t aware of what I thought was important work the zoo was doing. Even before I agreed to work with them I visited the zoo multiple times to see what it was like for myself.
I visited the zoo dozens and dozens of times in my years working with them and not once did I witness or suspect abuse. I’ve watched Michael – the man and owner pictured in both videos – train animals and lead shows numerous times and have never witnessed him speak to an animal like that or whip an animal. I feel that it’s important to say that not to defend the zoo or prove that none took place, but to defend my own interests as an animal lover and explain why I defended them while I worked with them.
But did I make a living off something that was untrue?
Was I just another one of the people that believed too readily?
Did I not ask enough questions?
I truly hope that isn’t the case.
Some people who have knowledge of my former relationship with the zoo have suggested that I was (or am?) paid to lie on behalf of the zoo. I want everyone to know that that simply isn’t true. I have never knowingly lied on behalf of the zoo, nor have I ever witnessed and covered up the abuse of any animal – at that zoo or anywhere else. It’s really important to me that people know that. I spent my time working with the zoo telling people about the great work I thought they were doing and introduced many people to the zoo and its animals. I hosted multiple events with bloggers, influencers, press, parents, and families at the zoo. And I feel terrible if in light of the recent allegations any of those people regret their association with the zoo and my involvement with them. I am wracked with guilt over the possibility of the validity of the accusations.
So that’s it – my own version of the monkey business. For whatever it’s worth.