Lucy in the Sky with Dummies

For 32 years, an Asian elephant named Lucy has lived in relative comfort and splendor at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in central Alberta, Canada. At age 34 years, she is like other older creatures, suffering from declining health. Lucy has labored breathing, dental problems, and is arthritic. Professional veterinary care is part of her ongoing health care plan. No death panels have been convened for Lucy, yet.

Along come the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and a growing host of celebrities, adding their support to a plan to relocate Lucy from the frigid winters of sunny Alberta to an elephant sanctuary in sunny California, where she could live out her remaining years in the company of other elephants. You see, Lucy is devoid of pachyderm companionship at present. This is evidently the overriding concern of relocation advocates, as they are prepared to overlook the advice of her veterinarian. Bringing in more elephants to keep Lucy company is probably out of the question as groups like PETA would no doubt argue against it for the sake of eliminating zoos altogether. Meanwhile, Lucy apparently enjoys the company of her keepers, as those familiar with the concept of animal “imprinting” might understand. She is a pet.

Lucy’s veterinarian, Dr. Milton Ness advises that moving Lucy would be too stressful and the transit could threaten her very life. Bob Barker, of The Price is Right fame, now an “animal rights” activist, disagrees. In his visit to Edmonton today to meet Lucy (photo opportunity anyone?), he has expressed support on behalf of PETA for her immediate relocation. Barker is part of an expanding pool of celebrities adding their support, and reducing the average rationality of the pool in the process. Margaret Atwood is an early advocate, and lately William Shatner has beamed in as well.

Now let’s see, on the one hand we have a creature that has survived 32 years in captivity with expert ongoing care. Her veterinarian advises that it would be too risky to move her in an operation on the scale contemplated. On the other, we have PETA and numerous celebrities who nevertheless insist on relocation. I guess that view is based on what: a familiarity with publicity, self-promotion, political activism and dubious television programming?

On the plus side, if Lucy does migrate to the US she likely won’t need a passport or have to bother with all the other immigration and border issues that face the human species. If she survives the journey it would be an all-expenses-paid trip to a mild climate where she would eventually die in the company of her species kin. She would get to meet many more celebrities and could become a bigger one herself. That is, if after the novelty of promoting her cause wanes, she ever sees another celebrity.

On the negative side, if the trip didn’t kill her the stress of the photo sessions might. And, she will have to learn to deal with elephants again instead of people. For the celebrities, who are generally associated as supporters of activist groups like PETA, environmental issues, labor unions, other “left wing” causes, and the Democratic political party, the relocation of Lucy would place one more Republican symbol on their turf. Oops!

©Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske

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