PETA Asks Smithsonian to Stop Using Wild Animals as Party Props

Group Files Complaint With Feds After National Zoo Fundraiser Features Dangerous Cheetah

For Immediate Release:
April 23, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382

Washington — Several live exotic animals—including a cheetah, a penguin, and a wallaby, among others—were reportedly flown in from the Columbus Zoo for a cocktail-party fundraiser for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo, leading PETA to fire off a letter urging the Smithsonian to adopt a policy of never using wild animals as party props again. As PETA explains in its letter, photo opportunities at such noisy events as cocktail parties are extremely stressful for wild animals, who are typically carted about in cages and denied everything comfortable, comforting, natural, and important to them, including housing, privacy, and quiet.

“By using exotic animals as money-making props, the Smithsonian is acting like a circus, not like an educational institution,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “PETA is urging the National Zoo to adhere to its stated mission to protect wildlife—and that means recognizing that a cocktail party is no fun for animals who avoid human interaction and are scared by human chatter and music.”

PETA is also filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the cheetah, with whom partygoers were allowed to have direct contact. The federal Animal Welfare Act strictly limits direct contact with dangerous big cats to those under 3 months of age, and Moya, the cheetah who appeared at the party, is reportedly 3 years old. Dangerous incidents with big cats, including cheetahs, have resulted in the deaths of dozens of big cats and injuries—many fatal—to hundreds of human beings.

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PETA’s letter to the Smithsonian Institution follows.


April 23, 2013


Robert J. Lamb, Executive Director
National Zoological Park
Smithsonian Institution
Office of Advancement
P.O. Box 37012 MRC 5508
Washington, DC 20013-7012


Dear Mr. Lamb:

We are writing, with all due respect, to ask for your assurance that the National Zoo is not going into the circus business.

As you must know, wild animals naturally shun contact with humans. The cheetah and other animals used at Jim Kimsey’s zoo fundraiser do not enjoy being held and handled for photo opportunities. Partnering with the Columbus Zoo in this marketing campaign calls the integrity of both facilities into question.

It is well acknowledged these days that just because animals can be forced into “acclimating” to public settings doesn’t mean that they should be, and if the National Zoo is to uphold its mission to demonstrate leadership in animal care and to teach and inspire people to protect rather than exploit wildlife, it will not support such gratuitous use of animals.

We hope to hear that you will step in and implement a policy against forcing animals to interact with the public for zoo promotions. Thank you for your time.

Very truly yours,

Delcianna Winders, Esq.
Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement

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