babar


V.20 No.5 | 2/3/2011
Owing Mr. Elephant and Mr. Lion money is a bad, bad thing.
Lucas Hussack

Book Review

Angry Elephants

They don’t wanna be your beasts of burden

Fear of the Animal Planet

Are captive animals consciously revolting?

An alcoholic circus trainer with a bull-hook spears a disobedient elephant. The elephant gets pissed, digs his tusks into the trainer, throws him through the air and goes rampaging off. The elephant rushes past terrified onlookers, leaving a wake of chaos, and is eventually cornered by an armed militia. Poor Babar is riddled with bullets and collapses in a bloody heap.

With character and species variations aside, this—repeated ad nauseam—is pretty much the narrative substance of Jason Hribal's Fear of the Animal Planet: The Hidden History of Animal Resistance.

Starting with Tatiana the tiger, who scaled a 12-foot wall and mauled three people at the San Francisco Zoo in 2007, Hribal explores seemingly every captive animal attack and escape over the last century. He argues that these instances were not merely isolated acts of unpredictable instinct, but rather, ongoing, deliberate measures of revolt. "Captive animals have used their intelligence, ingenuity, and tenacity to overcome the situations and obstacles put before them," writes Hribal. "Their actions have had intent and purpose. ... They are choosing to fight back."

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