My husband and I are vocal vegans. Nobody in our personal lives has missed that fact, yet when we had our baby (now toddler), our nursery somehow got invaded by speciesism.
The generous people who give gifts to our family generally know how to avoid meat and dairy in food products, but people have also gotten our son farm animal toys, farm animal books, fishing simulation toys, toy kitchens with animal foods represented, and (as the title of this post suggests) books about animals in zoos.
I thought we had gotten rid of toys and books that implicitly, through story lines and latent assumptions, told our son that human dominance over animals is the correct set up. But one day when I was cleaning up after a day of toddler mayhem, I found Good Night, Gorilla on my son’s bedroom floor.
The plot of this children’s classic:
- The zookeeper, Joe (according to his name tag), is the last person to leave the zoo for the night. As he leaves, he passes each cage saying “good night” to each animal, by name of animal: “good night, Lion. Good night, Hyena”, etc.
- The gorilla’s cage is his first stop, and the gorilla steals Joe’s keys and goes about freeing each animal, behind Joe’s back.
- The animals follow Joe in neat procession to his home, which is a few feet from the entrance of the zoo, where they climb into bed or sleep on the floor with Joe and (presumed) wife, who don’t initially notice their guests.
- When the wife says “good night” to Joe, the animals say “good night” back, then she realizes they’re in the room.
- She takes the gorilla by the hand and leads the neat procession back to the zoo, saying “good night, zoo”. The gorilla and a mouse sneak into bed again in the end.
In my previous post, “My Babysitter Took My Vegan Kid To the Zoo! Now What?”, I discussed some of the reasons we don’t want our kid going to the zoo. This seemingly charming book about zoo animals makes some assumptions we don’t want our son to share: that zoo keepers love their animals and the animals love them back, that animals would willingly go back into their cages and that those cages are adequate to sustain happy, healthy life. I also wonder about the depiction of one caring zoo keeper who lives close by and is the last one out at night.
We’ll be looking into some of these books for our son. Have you read any books that you could add to this list? Or do you have reviews of these?
Photo credit: Denise Krebs via Flickr