Dear Urban Diplomat: is it wrong for a vegan to pontificate at the zoo?
Dear Urban Diplomat,
I’m a vegan mom with strong environmental ethics. But my eight-year-old has been begging, literally for years, for a visit to the zoo, and I finally broke down last month. As far as I’m concerned, caging wild creatures is cruel—my acquiescence was on the condition that we would discuss why I oppose uprooting animals from their natural habitats. As we watched the elephants, I began an admittedly emphatic recap of recent deaths. I was startled when a fuming mother interrupted me, launching into a tirade about ruining her kindergartner’s first visit to the zoo. I felt terrible, but all I could do was inadequately apologize. Is there any graceful way to recover from inadvertently crapping all over a child’s wonder?
—I’m a strange animal,
What you did—apologizing sincerely and slinking off with your tail between your legs—is about as graceful as it gets when it comes to resolving a public confrontation with a stranger. Any attempt to soothe the child directly should come from her trusted parent, not the crazy lady ranting about an elephant graveyard. But all of that is just damage control. If the faux-pas gods granted you a do-over, I would strongly suggest that you save the ethics lesson for the car ride home. Consider forgoing the zoos-are-evil speech in favour of the fuzzier lesson about the role zoos play in conservation. You might feel like you’re betraying your principles, but this strategy allows you to subtly introduce the concept of animal extinction without sucking the joy out of your own son’s first visit. An eight-year-old deserves a little magic, too.
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