Rick Bogle: Madison’s love affair with Dalai Lama hasn’t benefited its animals : Ct

Can meditation really make the world a better place?

“The Four Immeasurables” (traditional Tibetan Buddhist prayer)

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,

     May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,

     May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,

     May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

Meditation does not make one more compassionate. I wish dearly that it were otherwise, but wishing won’t make it so.

The practice of meditation is very old. It has existed in cultures around the world in the form of chants, mantras, repeated prayer and affirmation, stilling one’s mind, a silencing of thoughts and an effort to be aware of the presence of some universal being or force. The goals of such practices are usually referred to as enlightenment, satori, communion with God, spiritual growth or something similar.

Hinduism has many sects with long traditions of meditation. Indian ascetics combine intense meditation and often extreme physical privation in their effort to achieve some union or merging with a cosmic consciousness or to reach the blissful mental state of nirvana. Sometime between 400 and 500 BCE, Siddhartha Gautama, a Brahmin prince from the highest caste of Indian society, left his wealth behind and joined the ranks of ascetics looking for spiritual truth. After six years of this practice, he was dissatisfied with the results and vowed to do nothing but meditate until he had achieved his goal.

Legend says that after a period of time he had the penultimate ah-ha moment and in an instant was aware of all his previous lives, the spiritual physics underlying the causes of suffering and rebirth, and a way that this endless cycle could be escaped. He became, at that moment, the Enlightened One: the Buddha.

Legend says that he soon began teaching others what he had learned. He taught a way to escape from the endless wheel of birth and death. His basic formula for avoiding the effects of the karma that keeps us on the endless cycle of birth and death is a moral code called the five precepts: Avoid harming any sentient being, stealing, adultery, lying and intoxication. Other practices are needed to achieve enlightenment, but without adherence to the precepts, an endless cycle of rebirth and the resulting suffering is inevitable.

About 100 years after his death, a schism developed among the Buddha’s followers and two main branches developed that are today known as Theravada and Mahayana. Early Mahayanists began worshiping the Buddha as a deity while Theravadins continued to see him as a man who had had an insight of the highest importance. Over the centuries, Mahayana with its many sects has become the most popular and largest branch of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism was carried to the Tibetan plateau sometime in the 8th century. The version that reached the region was Tantric Buddhism, a Buddhism that incorporated yoga and ritual sex practices. As traditional Tibetan beliefs were assimilated, the resulting belief system became known as Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism incorporated many of the traditional folk beliefs into its philosophy and practice; even today, native Tibetan Buddhists commonly maintain what are thought of by Westerners as superstitions about magic and demonic beings in the spirit world.

Over time, a theocracy took control of what is now Tibet. Based on the dual beliefs of the transmigration of souls and the power of divination to identify the soul of a recently dead Lama in the body of a child, the Lamas have remained in control of the society for about 800 years. Often living in opulent palaces, Lama’s and monks are free from the concerns of the average person and able to pursue a more spiritual existence as they seek to achieve enlightenment.

Geographically remote, rumors of a timeless mystical land high in the Himalayas fueled myths and wild claims about the abilities of the Lamas in the monasteries. Stories about their ability to fly, to travel in the spirit world, of telepathy and prescience led to a mythos that sunk deep roots into the Western view of Tibet.

Today, the supreme spiritual leader of the Tibetan people is His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion. He is essentially a god king to most Tibetans. Whenever the Dalai Lama speaks in public people flock to hear him, hoping or believing that they will hear sage advice from this living embodiment of a character out of James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon.”

But the myth that surrounds Tenzin Gyatso is not a close match to the reality of who he actually is. For instance, in spite of the straightforward first precept that tells Buddhists not to intentionally hurt any sentient being and the Buddhist belief that we have lived countless lives as animals, the Dalai Lama supports the experimental use of animals, even highly invasive brain experiments on monkeys intended to elucidate the biology of fear. He eats animals too. A lifetime of presumably intense meditative practice has not seemed to imbue him with much compassion for the animals he eats or for the animals experimented on in the laboratories around the world — animals animated by souls that have presumably been and will yet be in an infinitude of humans and other animals.

If meditation actually does make one more compassionate, it stands to reason that someone intimately involved with promoting this idea would be a living example. In Madison, the person most often associated with the Dalai Lama and meditation is Richard Davidson, director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His long relationship with the Dalai Lama seems to have led people in Madison to think he is nearly as exalted; he draws large crowds when he speaks and regularly shows pictures of himself rubbing elbows with His Holiness. But Davidson’s publishing history is anything but a demonstration of increasing compassion. In conjunction with his UW-Madison colleagues Dr. Ned Kalin, chair of the department of psychiatry, also photographed with the Dalai Lama, and Steve Shelton, Davidson has been reporting on changes in fearfulness of abnormally anxious young monkeys following the ablation with acid, electrocautery, or suction of various parts of their brains as they detailed in their paper “Orbitofrontal cortex lesions alter anxiety-related activity in the primate bed nucleus of stria terminalis,” (Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Converse AK, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. J Neurosci. 2010). These experiments have been ongoing for over 20 years, and the degree of invasiveness has, if anything, increased. There is no indication of any growing compassion for the animals.

In Madison, where each of the Dalai Lama’s nine visits since 1979 have received public fanfare, not much concern for animals’ well-being was heard when the university had itself exempted from the state’s Crimes Against Animals statutes. When the Vilas Zoo recently announced its plan to buy polar bears to amuse people while they snack on chicken sandwiches in the new Arctic exhibit, a local paper seemed thrilled with the idea. There isn’t much said when molting geese with their babies are rounded up under cover of darkness and killed because their droppings annoy a tiny number of people. When outdoorsmen pushed through laws giving them the right to hunt and trap in state parks, the main criticism was that park visitors might be accidentally shot.

There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that meditation by local practitioners, the presence of a Tibetan Buddhist community, or even regular visits and public teachings by Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion, have led to an increase in compassion among most of us living here in Madison.

Rick Bogle stopped eating animals in 1972. He has been advocating on their behalf since 1997, when he ended his personal meditation practice. He lives in Madison and works for the Alliance for Animals. www.allanimals.org

Rick Bogle: Madison’s love affair with Dalai Lama hasn’t benefited its animals : Ct.

Rick Bogle: Henry Vilas Zoo not appropriate home for giraffes : Wsj

Thursday’s “Getting to know you” photo featured the two new giraffes at the Henry Vilas Zoo.

It is obvious giraffes have evolved over time into the consummate walking animal. And even the most casual observer probably knows they are native to hot climates.

Keeping these animals in the confines of a small paddock and in a small room over the coldest months denies them the opportunity to behave normal. It is inhumane. It is like keeping a condor in a cage or a blue whale in a swimming pool.

The Henry Vilas Zoo is an inappropriate place for giraffes. Before acquiring any new animals, the zoo has an unavoidable moral responsibility to improve the conditions for the animals it already has.

— Rick Bogle, Madison, co-executive director, Alliance for Animals

Rick Bogle: Henry Vilas Zoo not appropriate home for giraffes : Wsj.

What are Animal Rights? Watch the Best Animal Rights Documentaries Free Online

32518This video library features the best animal rights documentaries, short films and videos that can be found on the internet, all cataloged in one place for easy reference. Have you found a good film that should be in this library? 

What are Animal Rights? Watch the Best Animal Rights Documentaries Free Online.

Primate Freedom: Giraffes in Wisconsin

Keeping giraffes in Wisconsin is like forcing a polar bear to live in Amazonia; problems are inevitable.

In Wisconsin, famous for it’s long bitter winters, animals adapted to the tropics are kept indoors during the long cold spells. Forcing animals who are obviously designed for walking to stand in place for days, weeks, and even months at a time is matter-of-factly cruel and inhumane.

A few years ago, giraffes at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconin, were killed when it was determined that their chronic joint disease was untreatable. Killing them was the “humane” thing to do.

Giraffe Dies at the Henry Vilas Zoo
WEAU 13 NEWS
Eau Claire, WI
Nov 17, 2006

A second giraffe has died in less than a month at the Henry Villas Zoo in Madison, a victim of a degenerative bone and joint disease that officials say afflicted his entire family.

The 7-year-old giraffe named Raymond Junior, or RJ, was euthanized Tuesday after severely rupturing his hip joint, making him unable to stand.

His 12 year-old father Raymond had been euthanized under similar circumstances a month ago. It was predictable and to be expected. Now there are more giraffes at the Vilas Zoo. Their joints are probably corroding away from inactivity even as I write this. They’ll be “humanely” killed and new ones will be acquired at some point. Now this:

Two giraffes die in barn fire at Wisconsins Dells park
Wisconsin State Journal
12-1-2012

WISCONSIN DELLS — A fire Sunday night destroyed a barn and killed two 4-year-old giraffes at the Timbavati Wildlife Park on Wisconsin Dells Parkway.

Kilbourn Fire Chief Scott Walsh said the fire was not suspicious but is under investigation by Wisconsin Dells Police.

Walsh said nothing was left of the barn that housed the two giraffes. The animals had been shut in the barn, he said, and no one was there when the fire started to open doors to get them out.

Giraffes don’t belong in a barn anymore than an eagle belongs in a aquarium.

Primate Freedom: Giraffes in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Dells Wildlife Park Fire Kills 2 Giraffes: Chicagoist

Park owner Mark Schoebel sees animals as objects which can be replaced rather than as individual beings:

“Giraffes are a signature animal for us, and we will be looking for giraffes to replace them,” Schoebel said. “It’s a little bit early yet. We don’t know exactly yet how we’re going to handle it all, but you know they were great animals. It’s a horrible thing to lose,” he said.

This is someone who is not a friend to animals. See 911 Animals Abuse.

Sad news from Wisconsin Dells, where two giraffes were killed in a fire at a wildlife park that was closed for the season.

The two 5-year-old giraffes were housed in an enclosure at the Timbavati Wildlife Park when someone called 911 around 6 p.m. on Dec. 30 to report a fire. The fire wound up engulfing the enclosure completely.

The Wisconsin Dells Police Department released a statement:

On Sunday, December 30, 2012 at approximately 5:57 p.m. the Wisconsin Dells Police Department received a 911 call reporting a fire. The caller reported a building burning at the Timbavati Wildlife Park, located at 2220 Wisconsin Dells Parkway, Wisconsin Dells.The Kilbourn Fire Department was dispatched and arrived to find the Giraffe enclosure building fully engulfed. The Lake Delton Fire Department assisted. Two four-year-old male giraffes died in the fire. The building was destroyed.

Police are investigating the cause of the fire, but don’t believe arson is involved at this time. Timbavati Wildlife Park’s Facebook page lists feeding the giraffes was one of the park’s main attractions.

Wisconsin Dells Wildlife Park Fire Kills 2 Giraffes: Chicagoist.

Two giraffes die in barn fire at Wisconsin Dells Park – Wisconsin State Journal

Elephants are dying out in America’s zoos – The Seattle Times

Zoos’ efforts to preserve and propagate elephants have largely failed, both in Seattle and nationally. The infant-mortality rate for elephants in zoos is almost triple the rate in the wild.

As the 1960s dawned, few Americans had ever seen a baby elephant. It had been more than 40 years since an elephant had been born in North America, and then only at a circus — never in a zoo.

But in a ramshackle exhibit yard at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, in the summer of 1960, the extraordinary occurred: A 15,000-pound male, Thonglaw, mated with a much smaller female, Belle, and Belle became pregnant. Zookeepers didn’t know that elephant gestation takes 22 months, though, and they missed the pregnancy altogether. Unaware, they transferred the pachyderm pair to a zoo in Portland, under a sharing agreement.

In April 1962, at the Portland zoo, Belle gave birth to a male named Packy, and an international sensation was ignited. Life magazine devoted an 11-page spread to the birth. The country got caught up in a Packy craze, with toys, clothes and books bearing the cute baby’s image flying off the shelves.

The public seemed to feel a unique connection to elephants, gentle giants who exhibit many humanlike qualities. Elephants live in families, exhibit memory and possess surprising self-awareness, such as recognizing themselves in a mirror. They experience grief and love, pain and fear.

Little Packy was everybody’s baby, and attendance at the Oregon Zoo soared as visitors from all over the world waited in half-mile-long lines to see him. Cash receipts skyrocketed, and so did donations.

It was clear that elephants, the world’s largest land mammals, were indeed “glamour beasts,” box-office stars that would help America’s zoos through the 20th century and into the 21st. Across the country, the race to produce baby elephants was on.

The effort would be good not only for zoos, officials insisted, it would be good for the Asian and African species that were under enormous pressure in their natural habitats. Zoos would help preserve and propagate elephants, they explained.

Fifty years later, The Seattle Times set out to examine how that effort has turned out. Despite the zoo industry’s insistence otherwise, by almost any measure, it has failed.

A gamble goes bad

It took decades, but Seattle finally got its own baby elephant. In 2000, an Asian female named Hansa was born at Woodland Park Zoo, instantly bewitching the public. But 6 ½ years later, when she was found dead on the elephant-barn floor early one morning, zoo officials knew their gamble had failed.

They suspected an elephant herpes virus known as EEHV that had begun ravaging young elephants at a handful of U.S. zoos. The virus, believed to spread by contact, could lie dormant for years, then move so swiftly it could destroy internal organs in hours.

They knew that the virus had infected elephants inside the Springfield, Mo., zoo where they sent Hansa’s mother to be bred. They feared it might find its way back to Seattle but the pluses “outweighed the negatives,” they said, and they took a risk.

Besides, the zoo industry’s governing body, the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), had privately approved Seattle’s plan. The AZA was desperate to produce elephants, hoping to reverse or at least slow an alarming decline in the number of the animals in American zoos.

Publicly, the zoo industry was claiming — and continues to claim today — that “elephants are thriving inside zoos.” It’s a message that AZA officials have delivered repeatedly to lawmakers and regulators, trumpeted in news releases, and highlighted in a recent national marketing campaign.

But they know it’s not true. And it never has been. Continue reading:

Elephants are dying out in America’s zoos | Nation & World | The Seattle Times.