Goodbye to Tatiana

People who don't like hunting claim that it is cruel. But hunting is no more cruel than nature itself, which imposes violent deaths on most of its creatures, predator and prey alike. If you would like to see real cruelty to animals, go to a zoo, where you may behold big bears, or elephants, or wolves, which are accustomed to roaming over scores or hundreds of square miles, confined to a few acres--or a few square feet--for all of their unnaturally long lives.

How these creatures keep from going mad is beyond me. Some of them--elephants in particular--probably do go mad, just as a person would serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. The more progressive zoos disguise their cages by turning them into "grottos," with trees and flowers and chirping birds, but a prison is still a prison, and the inmates are not fooled.

Tatiana, the 3-year-old Siberian tiger who killed one person and mauled two others at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Eve, is a prime example of what I'm talking about. It is possible that Tatiana was provoked, and decided that enough was enough, and that it was time for payback. So she acted like a tiger--a real one--and paid for it with her life. She is probably lucky. She will not have to spend the rest of her days being gaped at, wondering what she did to deserve this.

I've seen only one edifying sight in a zoo. It was at New York's Central Park zoo, many years ago, where I watched an old male orangutan sitting on a trapeze in his cage, peeing into a big metal cup. A crowd gathered, laughing and pointing, and when the orang was done, he smiled a smile of pure hatred and flung the contents of the cup at them.

There was the zoo experience in a nutshell.