Monday, 5 December 2011
This weekend saw the MSM was agog and awash with news about Edinburgh Zoo's latest residents, now labelled 'the rock stars of the animal world'. Why can't I get excited?
Is it to do with the artificial enthusiasm of those involved in this most strange 'diplomatic' occurrence or is it to do with my belief that animals should be allowed to thrive in their natural environments? Perhaps it's a little of both.
Edinburgh Zoo is a 'charity' which should be registered as a commercial enterprise. The cost of visiting this Scottish attraction is £15.50 for me alone (nearly half my weekly bill for food) and family tickets are between £33.70 and £57.60. I've never been a lover of zoos and neither were my parents, so I never visited one until I was an adult and away from home. Funnily enough my first visit to a zoo was to the one in Edinburgh when I was around 18. It wasn't very enjoyable although the penguins tried hard to play to their audience and, being teenagers, some of us were intrigued to see animals we had only read about in story books.
But that was 1964 and I'm amazed that 47 years later, when so many can afford to travel, there's so much enthusiasm for viewing Sweetie and Sunshine (aka Tian Tian and Yang Guang) out of their country of origin. For them it's not just a case of sitting around and eating imported bamboo, but they must procreate to make their expensive world trip worthwhile. The bill for their 10 year visit will be around £8 million including the £700,000 annual payment the zoo will make to China for the privilege of having their national animals grace their rather faded and failing enterprize.
I have no problem with businesses introducing new ideas to boost their profits, but using live animals under the canopy of improving relationships with China, is a few steps too far.
In my lifetime China has risen to be one of the world's greatest economies, partially due to British companies moving their production facilities there. It's assumed Margaret Thatcher created the downfall of Scottish industry; perhaps she did, but she was ahead of the game. Without her input Scotland would have lost much of her industry anyway to the likes of China. She only accelerated the demise with her free market ideology.
Yesterday politicians were queuing up to claim credit for the expensive loan of Sweetie and Sunshine.
A reader sent the following by email:
It may not be cruel or a punishment, but to be placed on a 10 year secondment to Scotland may not be the triumph it's been heralded if they don't live up to their new masters' expectations.