February 25, 2010
Posted: 04:27 PM ET
Dear Mr. James:
I am writing on behalf my friends at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and their more than 2 million members and supporters around the world, as well as everyone who wants to see whales and dolphins living free in their ocean homes and human beings protected from needless attacks when those animals are kept in captivity.
The death of yet another trainer at SeaWorld did not have to happen, and I must appeal to you to take strong action now so that it never happens again. I know that the Blackstone Group was asked to close the SeaWorld theme parks when you acquired them last year. I urge you to make that humane move now and to start moving the captive orcas and other marine mammals to transitional coastal and wildlife sanctuaries and replace them with state-of-the-art virtual reality exhibits such as those used in the hugely popular "Walking With Dinosaurs" exhibits that wow youngsters and adults alike. The experience would be like watching free-living wild animals, whereas captive animals' unnatural and neurotic behavior patterns are dull to watch and undeniably linked to their oppressive environments.
This is not the first time that a trainer has been seized, thrown against the walls of the tank, and held down to drown. I cannot imagine what the sight of such a hideous event would do to a child in the audience. Deaths of animals and human injuries are also common.
The intelligent, social, ocean animals kept in the most pitifully small tanks at SeaWorld are denied everything that is natural and important to them. In the wild, they swim up to 100 miles a day in the open ocean, but captured dolphins are confined to small tanks where the reverberations from their own sonar bounce off the walls, driving some of them insane. Some of these animals were violently captured from their homes, many are forced to learn circus-style tricks, and according to whistleblower tips from trainers, withholding food and isolating animals who refuse to perform are common training methods. The only thing that people learn from visiting a SeaWorld theme park is how miserable life is for animals held there.
I am most respectfully urging the Blackstone Group to immediately set in place a firm and rapid plan to release the animals to sanctuaries that can provide them with a more natural environment. I can be reached through PETA at 202-540-2199. I would appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.
August 4, 2009
LKL WEB EXCLUSIVE: Bob Barker - "I'm Not an Expert on Bears, I'm an Expert on Giving Away Refrigerators"
Posted: 10:32 AM ET
Editor's Note: LKL has reached out to "Cherokee Bear Zoo" for a response to this commentary. So far, our calls have not been returned.
Cherokee's Unbearable Bear Pits
By Bob Barker
Even though my life has been full of incredible experiences and I've learned that there's always more on the horizon, I never imagined I'd be writing a blog post for CNN at the age of 85. But when I was asked to write about my work for animals and my recent campaign to free some bears who are living in appalling conditions in Cherokee, North Carolina, I knew it was time to ask Debbie Leahy of PETA to help me with my computer skills.
Knowing about my love for animals, a few months ago my good friend Rep. Bill Young of Florida called me about an unfortunate experience that his family recently had involving caged bears. His wife, Beverly, had taken their children and grandchildren to Cherokee to educate them about life on a reservation. Being part Native American myself and having grown up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I appreciated their interest in Indian culture.
Beverly saw a sign that said, "Come Feed the Bears," so they stopped at a roadside zoo. She described what she saw as "sickening." There were six to seven bears in concrete cubicles. Their fur was hanging off, they were begging for food, and an employee was tossing one bear cub around by the scruff of his neck. Beverly said she had an uncomfortable confrontation with the person who was mishandling the cub and was asked to leave. I remember her saying, "The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are treated better than these bears, who have done nothing."
I contacted my friends at PETA, and they sent a staff member and a bear expert to investigate. They reported that the situation was much worse than what the Young family had witnessed. There are actually three roadside zoos in Cherokee—Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park and Santa's Land. They house close to 30 bears in unimaginably awful conditions. The bears are confined to desolate concrete pits or cramped cages where they often pace back and forth, walk in endless circles, get into fights with each other, cry and whimper and beg tourists to throw food at them. They have no dirt to dig in or trees to climb—just the same four walls every single day of their lives.
Accompanied by representatives from PETA and the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California, I went to Cherokee to appeal to Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to intervene in behalf of these beautiful animals. Before the meeting, I planned to visit these zoos to see the conditions for myself. I guess the owners of the two facilities where bears live in pits were too ashamed to let me see what was going on there because they refused to let me in.
I told Chief Hicks that I'm not an expert on bears. I'm an expert on giving away refrigerators. But I can tell you that these bears are not properly housed or fed. Cherokee has a rich cultural history and much to be proud of. The cruel bear displays are a glaring blemish on the area, and I hope that the members of the Tribal Council for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will open their hearts and do the right thing by shutting them down.
The good people of Cherokee welcomed me warmly, and many told me they agreed that the bears are kept in deplorable conditions. Bears are very intelligent, active and curious animals. They need room to roam, natural surroundings to investigate and opportunities to forage, climb and dig dens.
Earlier in my career, I hosted a show called Truth or Consequences. I closed the show by saying, "… hoping all your consequences are happy ones!" I hope with all my heart that Chief Hicks and the tribal council will make the consequences for the Cherokee bears happy ones. Until then, my heart and my conscience won't allow me to do anything but ask people to stay away from Cherokee and voice their support for allowing the bears to retire to a sanctuary.
To learn more about how to help these bears, please visit PETA.org.
Go Behind The Scenes
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With anecdotes, provocative emails, scandals, show transcripts and insights into Walker's long working relationship with Larry King, her new book PRODUCER issues readers an invitation to listen in on the most intriguing conversations on the planet.