Thursday 28th July
Wow, I only just realised how quickly the time has passed. It’s almost the end of the month, and LOH is going in just three days…mixed feelings maybe about that?
Our bedroom. Notice the thousands of toys (all apart from the little lion in the background) which had all been bought on this trip. BUT THE BEAR WAS SO FLUFFY.
Anyways, we had more bread with butter and cheese, along with salad and yoghurt (some very startling variety for eight in the morning) for breakfast, before trundling along through some heavy traffic to finally arrive at the city house at eleven. I managed to finish my second book Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro whilst my dad and Sophia played a game of Chinese Checkers, or Five in a Row depending on how you look at it. A quick lunch at Yong He Da Wang, another fast food chain in China, where we all had the same ready meal: fried chicken with rice, seaweed and mango juice, before dropping of Dad, and then off to the zoo. Beijing Zoo.
I want to rant a little about Beijing Zoo. Firstly, my brother always thinks I’m going because I’m some idiot who goes every year, even though the animals’ habitats, living conditions and general quality of life is miserable compared to our zoos and safaris back in England and yeah, probably everywhere else in the world. I hope. (I actually talked about this for my English Speaking and Listening assignment-if you want, I can post the script although it’s all scribbly notes. Maybe the video would be better.) But really, I’m going because I want to see if it’s improving. And sure, though it’s mighty little, something happens every year that’s different-glass walls instead of bars, so that people can’t feed the animals. Better entrances and exits. But it’s worryingly, tediously slow, and in a world where we like to believe we’re helping to secure a better future for our planets animals then previous generations, it doesn’t really show at Beijing Zoo. The first time I went, back in 2008 or something, the year of the Olympics, I remember that the animals in the antelope section were all starving. I didn’t have any food, and feeding isn’t permitted, but it was clear that the animals hadn’t been fed the entire day. They had small, dirty enclosures with large bars that any hand could fit through. I didn’t see one zookeeper about.
I shouldn’t feed the animals, I know. But they were so desperate that it would have been inhumane not to. I fed them leaves from the trees that had fallen in the autumn breeze. Another time, I fed them these fluffy things which could have been seed pods or catkins in the spring, just when they were blooming. I threw them over the glass wall so the ibex could eat them, since they hadn’t eaten anything. If you waved one of those pathetically little things at the zebras from 70m away, they would come over and eat them from your hand as if they were golden nuggets. Nowadays, I bring lettuce, carrots, apples, that sort of stuff, and I always feed them, no matter what anyone tells me.
The hints of China’s intolerance towards animals, seeing them as just funny circus pets and playthings and nothing more, are horribly clear. I once saw a lady force a candy floss, stick included, down a zebra’s throat. People insistently knock on windows, and shout at the animals so that they wake up and do something in their depressing repetitive lives, in their tiny dirty enclosures that in no way provide the animal with the enrichment and natural stimulation it needs to thrive. In the nocturnal house, people kept using flash on their cameras, almost on purpose, as if to see what would happen to the poor creatures who were being blinded. They threw rocks at the monkeys, who thought they were nuts. They made the bears dance for food, twirling some obsolete chip or biscuit above their heads until they did the hoola, then dropping it on their heads on purpose. But there is another thing.
LOH kept trying to reach for a feather that had dropped off of one of the birds as they flew past. Eventually using straws and such she managed to get it out, with the help of my uncle.
The zookeepers themselves. The general attitude towards this whole idea of treating animals badly, inhumanely, being okay upsets me. Even my uncle and aunt, whilst staring at the smaller reptiles and insects in their dismal habitats, thought that this was great, how it should be. How ironic that only a couple of days ago the tiger mauling at Ba Da Ling safari park, one I visited just last year, happened. And the zookeepers. Where the hell were they? All I saw were vendors, cleaners and police officers, for some disgusting reason no doubt. And if you do see one, they will walk by you with a blank, dull face devoid of emotion. Here in England, all our keepers are at the very least enthusiastic, caring, and quite obviously love these animals as if they were their own. Here, they might as well be some kitchen utensil-unloved, used again and again until they break, boring, uninteresting but annoyingly necessary in order to earn a living.
I constantly see adverts scattered across places, with famous Chinese celebrities smiling or not smiling depending on where they want to go with it, Photoshopped terribly, looking cool, with words like ‘conservation’ and ‘a better world for animals’. Well, if you want a better world for animals, start with Beijing Zoo. Start with the fact that it’s messed up. Start with the fact that it needs to be totally redeveloped to remove any lingering presence of its bloody past, when things were worse then they were now, when the bear dancing was commonplace and accepted as one of the main attractions here.
Alright, I’m done. Phew. Gonna post that on TripAdvisor. I wonder what the score I’ll give could possibly be?…
After we left that place, we went down the road to this spa/restaurant, where you basically have a fancy shower, have a fancy massage and then have a fancy buffet (ish). When you enter a beautiful turtle greets you, large and gentle. Along the list of foods available at the restaurant were: goose, donkey, silkworm, abalone, and shark fin. Of course. Urgh. I can’t believe they still eat dogs in this country.
Next up: an end to my rant hopefully, and a footy match. Could go either way really. (EDIT: It goes the wrong way. Very much the wrong way.)