New Smithsonian Exhibit Violates Rule on Non-Interference With Wildlife

PETA Urges Museum to Stop Encouraging Visitors to Take Tiny Animals Out of Their Habitats to Harass and Photograph

For Immediate Release:
March 15, 2016

Catie Cryar 202-483-7382

This morning, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to … experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”—sent a letter to the director of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History calling on him to make changes to the museum’s new “Life in One Cubic Foot” exhibition. Currently, the exhibit invites visitors to build their own biocubes, which entails catching small animals with nets, separating them from the rest of the “sample” and photographing them, sometimes under a bright light, at a close distance—a process that PETA points out is inherently disturbing to the animals, particularly those who suffocate when removed from their natural aquatic habitats.

“Children should be taught to respect even the tiniest beetles and slugs, as they have feelings and a right to live free from needless interference and suffering,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling on the Smithsonian to advise visitors of all ages to learn by observation and video and to live and let live.”

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PETA’s letter to the National Museum of Natural History follows.

March 15, 2016

Kirk Johnson, Ph.D.
Sant Director
National Museum of Natural History

Dear Dr. Johnson,

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 3 million members and supporters, including hundreds of thousands across Washington, D.C., regarding the National Museum of Natural History’s new “Life in One Cubic Foot” exhibit.

As you know, the exhibit invites visitors to build their own biocubes and calls for collecting flying and swimming animals, among others, in nets; removing them from their natural environments; separating them into containers; and photographing them at close range—a process that would undoubtedly be traumatic for them and out of step with modern, enlightened ideas about how animals should be treated. Even if visitors intend to return these living beings to where they were found, it’s likely that some or many will lose their lives or sustain injuries during extraction and examination. All animals have feelings as well as a right to live free from unnecessary interference and suffering—regardless of whether they’re considered cute and cuddly—and the museum should not be teaching youngsters to interfere with them.

It’s impossible to live without causing some harm to insects and other small animals. We’ve all accidentally stepped on ants or breathed in gnats, but that doesn’t mean that we should teach people to cause unnecessary harm intentionally. Just because some people are accidentally hit by cars is no reason to run others over on purpose. There are many ways to advance science education that do not involve disturbing or harming animals.

Today, there are ample resources that provide information about particular ecosystems and don’t require removing animals from the ground, air, or water. For individuals who set up biocubes, the humane way to explore biodiversity would involve observing wild animals as they enter and pass through the cubes without interference. We hope that, upon reflection, you’ll advise your visitors not to remove any living animals from their natural habitats. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid E. Newkirk

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