HSUS—AZA: Golden Bridge to Zoo Obsolescence


Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese General who wrote the classic text ‘The Art of War,’ said ‘Build your enemies a golden bridge’. He meant corner your enemy, and then rather than fighting, create a path of escape in the direction that you want them to go. The Golden Bridge works by closing off all options except the one you have strategically chosen.

A Change in Tactics
Why has Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) taken such a proactive interest in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)? After decades of opposing zoos and all forms of captive conservation, Wayne Pacelle appears to have changed tactics in his bid to close the book on zoos. What if he could harness the active cooperation of AZA? He may then be able to influence a change of direction from within. To that end Pacelle spent the summer of 2017 speaking about how collaboration between HSUS and AZA is the way of the future. With long time friend and political ally, Dan Ashe, now at the helm of AZA, Pacelle may be empowered to usher zoos into a self enforced obsolescence.

The new twist in the HSUS—AZA partnership was unveiled when Dan Ashe announced that Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, would be the keynote speaker at the AZA Annual Conference 2017. Ashe added, “[Wayne] Pacelle has an important perspective to share with conference attendees.” Facebook blazed with opposition posts, and an online petition to disinvite Pacelle from the conference garnered more than 700 signatures. Nevertheless, Wayne Pacelle was welcomed as the keynote address.

Will Wayne Pacelle be “invited” to join the AZA Board of Directors?

The HSUS stance on zoos had been straight forward until recent years. HSUS had always opposed zoos and all captive breeding. In the 1990’s HSUS said that, “if the right policies were pursued, we would need no zoos at all.” In 2004, Nicole Paquette, Vice President of Wildlife Protection for HSUS, told the Los Angeles Times that she opposed “keeping animals in zoos.” However in his 2017 address, Wayne Pacelle declared, “The AZA and The HSUS have many shared ideals.” 

As has become his signature, Pacelle couldn’t resist reaching into his bag of dirty tricks. He has targeted the zoo community, lawmakers and government agencies with a smear campaign designed to brand any non-AZA facility with the pejorative of “Roadside Zoo.” Near the close of his keynote speech at the AZA Annual Conference, there was a moment reminiscent of Star Wars— when Darth Vader appeals to Luke Skywalker to, “feel the power of the dark side.” While calling dissenters “divisive,” Pacelle openly urged AZA members to turn on their zoo colleagues, and join him in condemning the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), the second largest zoo accreditation organization in the U.S.— Keep in mind, these are well respected, fully accredited zoos, duly licensed and inspected by the USDA.

There is no doubt that for the last decade, HSUS has been pressuring and using the AZA as a surrogate to advance animal rights based legislation and zoo policy. Ron Kagan, the Director of the Detroit Zoo, has spearheaded the HSUS crusade to win hearts and minds at the AZA, and he has been actively forging stronger ties with more radical members of the animal rights movement. While many AZA members have been more than dubious of Pacelle and Kagan’s efforts to co-opt the organization,  the cooperation of AZA leadership has lent much needed zoological legitimacy to the animal rights behemoth— and in exchange HSUS has exempted AZA from ongoing anti-zoo legislative initiatives at the local, state and federal level.

“I believe the animals on exhibit [at zoos] should be rescues.” —Wayne Pacelle, 4th International Animal Welfare Congress 2017

The Golden Bridge
According to their own statements, Kagan and Pacelle believe zoos should “transition to the sanctuary model,” and forgo the keeping of any large charismatic species in captivity— in this vision of the future, zoos would cease to exhibit cetaceans, elephants, great apes, and large carnivores. Under this “sanctuary model” zoos would become “last stop” sanctuaries, and conservation based captive breeding programs would be terminated. The AZA Species Survival Plans (SSP’s) have been vital to conservation, and a return to the wild, of endangered and even previously extinct species like the scimitar horned oryx, but captive breeding is a sin in the world of animal rights.

The reality is, animals are rarely taken from the wild for exhibit, especially endangered animals. So if there is no breeding, there are no zoo animals. If the transition to the sanctuary model combined with the dissolution of captive conservation projects (SSP’s) becomes policy, in 20-40 years AZA zoos would not have any animals to exhibit, nor would they have the archive of genetic stock for hundreds of endangered species. The long held HSUS paradigm of “one generation and out” would come to pass. This is the “Golden Bridge” that Wayne Pacelle, Dan Ashe and Ron Kagan envision for the AZA to retreat across—a strange new land where zoos are sanctuaries, and SSP’s are a memory— and anyone who is not on board is “cruel,” a “bad actor,” or a “roadside zoo.”

Andrew Wyatt, of Vitello Consulting, is a government affairs and policy consultant dedicated exclusively to the wildlife sector. Vitello Consulting for the Win!

WyattP1“In an arena known to be dominated by powerful special interest groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), Vitello Consulting has created a niche providing powerful advocacy strategies that are leveling the playing field for it’s wildlife clients on Capitol Hill.  In 2014 we began to offer state level advocacy that has negated most of the legislative and regulatory initiatives pushed by HSUS and PeTA against our clients in state capitols across the country. Please follow ‘The Last Word on Wildlife’ for insight and analysis particular to the 21st century wildlife sector. If you would like to discuss the potential advantages of creating a comprehensive business/government affairs strategy, or a more targeted issue campaign, please call or email me.” — Andrew Wyatt

©Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word on Wildlife, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word on Wildlife with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Material posted from guest writers is the sole intellectual property of the author. Please seek permission directly from the author prior to reproducing in whole or in part

U.S. Now Allows Elephants From Zimbabwe, Zambia To Be Imported

“It’s not too late to reverse restrictions imposed by the Obama Administration that were not based on facts and science.” — Andrew Wyatt

Hunt Forever

Elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia between 2016-2018 now can be imported into the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced today in Africa.

At the African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF) co-hosted by Tanzania and Safari Club International Foundation, the FWS announced that it had made positive enhancement findings for elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and

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Big Cat Public Safety Act: USFWS v. USDA

Legislative Update on the Status of H.R. 1818: Big Cat Public Safety Act

The Last Word on Wildlife

08270149-aa9f-4e80-bf2d-e81486d697e3-2060x1236UPDATED June 29, 2017

On March 30, 2017 the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1818) was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives. Proponents of H.R. 1818 laud it as a bi-partisan effort to “prohibit private ownership of captive lions, tigers, and other big cats in the US.” — in other words, pets. However, this characterization appears not only disingenuous, but it is duplicative, as most states already prohibit the ownership of big cats as pets. If passed as written, the primary impact of H.R. 1818 would not be on pet owners, but on zoos and sanctuaries that are not ideologically aligned with animal rights advocates espousing historical anti-captive wildlife sentiments.

Usurping the Animal Welfare Act
In a joint press release animal rights groups claimed H.R. 1818 would strengthen the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA). The CWSA is the 2003 Lacey Act amendment mandating interstate transport of big cats be limited…

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Moroccan Sight Hound “Toby” takes Best of Breed at 141st Westminster 2017

Welcome to the all-new ASLA Times, the official quarterly publication of the American Sloughi Association. This fully searchable online magazine will only be available in the future in a members-only restricted area of the ASLA web site as one of the many benefits of membership in ASLA. This is the… Continue reading

Read more via ASLA Times April 2017 — American Sloughi Association

Angry Tweets Won’t Help African Lions

“… hunting was never really the main problem.” ~ Richard Conniff for The New York Times

strange behaviors

ZWE_BWA_120928_1701_04284_F-Blog (Photo: Craig Taylor/Panthera)

by Richard Conniff/The New York Times

THE killing of Zimbabwe’s celebrated Cecil the Lion by a Minnesota dentist, on July 1 of last year unleashed a storm of moral fulmination against trophy hunting. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued an official statement calling for the hunter, Walter J. Palmer, to be hanged, and an odd bedfellow, Newt Gingrich, tweeted that Dr. Palmer and the entire team involved in the killing of Cecil should go to jail. The television personality Sharon Osbourne thought merely losing “his home, his practice and his money” would do, adding, “He has already lost his soul.”

More than one million people signed a petition demanding “justice for Cecil,” and three major American airlines announced that they would no longer transport hunting trophies. A few months later, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed lions from West and Central…

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Fossil Rim factors into scimitar-horned oryx reintroduction

“Fossil Rim embodies the spirit of captive conservation.”– Andrew Wyatt

Words On Wildlife

On the other side of the world, animals that have been extinct in the wild since 2000 are mere months away from roaming freely in their native land once again.

The first 25 of 500 scimitar-horned oryx set for reintroduction into Chad arrived in the country March 14. The project’s driving force is the Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).

With the green light, participants at 17 locations across America, Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were able to begin shipping oryx to Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, with the goal of building a “world herd.” From there, the first 25 were sent to Chad.

SHO exit crates A couple of the first 25 scimitar-horned oryx from the “world herd” hit the ground running in Chad after being transported from Abu Dhabi. Currently in a fenced area, they are slated for release into the wild August 21. Thus far, Fossil Rim Wildlife…

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When Animal Rights Sabotage the Natural World

“It is becoming more and more apparent that HSUS has little understanding of the natural world, and even less understanding of conservation and wildlife management.”– Andrew Wyatt

strange behaviors

Deer-herd-web-2-26-06My latest for Takepart.com:

There are times—too many times, in truth—when understanding and protecting the natural world demands that we band together to stop the killing: The macho practice of shooting wolves in the American West comes to mind as an example. So does the relentless slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Africa. But at other times, protecting the natural world requires us to kill, and this is the painful reality some animal rights activists refuse to understand.

It’s not a failure to communicate. Animal rights groups are often brilliant at communicating. It’s a failure to reason in the face of scientific evidence, and it comes up almost endlessly for people who do the real work of protecting the natural world.

The latest case happened in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The city wanted to cull a booming deer population that is destroying the forest understory, damaging local landscaping, and…

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