Our Culture Celebrates Thomas Edison, Animal Torturer and Murderer

Following up on my weekend post about sea turtles, here is a postcard from a turtle hospital on Orion’s blog. It’s cool that they’re trying to help injured animals, and I’m sure the inviduals who recuperate because of the aquarium are thankful it exists. And yet, the aquarium exists to address a problem that humans have caused, so its humanitarian efforts (pun intended) must be seen in that context. Also, the author brags about teaching the turtles tricks while in captivity. What’s up with that? Why this fascination with making other animals perform? It’s not bad enough that they’re injured and in a cage, they have to (literally?) jump through hoops, too?

A while ago a friend of mine suggested I read Fear of the Animal Planet by Jason Hribal. The book is a pretty sound and very detailed indictment of zoos, and of the “animal entertainment” industry. Hribal collects numerous accounts of animals resisting their indentured servitude—rebellions that often end fatally. Here’s an excerpt from the review by Paul Craig Roberts (linked above):

Most people, were they to read Hribal’s book, would have a hard time with the intent that he ascribes to animals. Like the executives of circuses, zoos, and Sea World, most humans ascribe captive animal attacks to unpredictable wild instinct, to accident, or to the animal being spooked by noise or the behavior of some third party. Hribal confronts this view head on. Orcas purposely drown their trainers, and elephants purposely kill their keepers. Captive animals seek escape.

It’s a great (and short) book so I suggest you read it. You might think about zoos and circuses much differently after you’re done.

On a similar note, here’s video of Thomas Edison electrocuting an elephant, simply to slander his rival, Nikola Tesla, and spread propaganda about his own direct current electricty system, which he was developing for huge personal profit. But this wasn’t just any elephant; according to the link:

Edison’s aggressive campaign to discredit the new current took the macabre form of a series of animal electrocutions using AC (a killing process he referred to snidely as getting “Westinghoused”). Stray dogs and cats were the most easily obtained, but he also zapped a few cattle and horses.

Edison got his big chance, though, when the Luna Park Zoo at Coney Island decided that Topsy, a cranky female elephant who had squashed three handlers in three years (including one idiot who tried feeding her a lighted cigarette), had to go.

Park officials originally considered hanging Topsy but the SPCA objected on humanitarian grounds, so someone suggesting having the pachyderm “ride the lightning,” a practice that had been used in the American penal system since 1890 to dispatch the condemned. Edison was happy to oblige.

What a great summary of our culture.


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