Carolyn Maloney, a U.S. Congresswoman from New York, is working to import a pair of giant pandas from China and display them in New York City.
In a YouTube video, “The Pandas are Coming to NYC,” Maloney cites several ways in which this endeavor will benefit humans, including education, entertainment, increased tourism, and improved relations with China. She makes no mention, however, of the welfare of the pandas, who, like other wild animals, suffer in captivity.
Pandas are wild animals, not objects for display. In the forests of China, they have rich lives, gathering food, roaming freely and raising their young. In captivity, they languish in their exhibit spaces while people take selfies through sheets of glass.
In 2012, the Director of Conservation Education at China’s largest panda breeding facility described captive-bred pandas as a “caricature” of the real thing. People who are genuinely interested in learning about pandas can watch nature shows that document their behavior in the wild. Observing pandas in an artificial enclosure will only teach people that wild animals can be imprisoned for our amusement. Furthermore, it will do nothing to help conserve pandas in the wild.
If Congresswoman Maloney moves forward with her plan to rent pandas from China, she will not only fuel the market for captive pandas but also help to perpetuate the abuse that exists in China’s panda breeding facilities. Undercover video released in July, 2017 showed workers using excessive force on two babies. This disturbing footage reinforces what we already know — that panda breeding facilities are panda mills in disguise. Indeed, the pandas born in captivity are rented out, like commodities, for $1 million/year to zoos.
Wild animal captivity is already losing favor in the mainstream, as evidenced by the closure of Ringling Bros., plummeting attendance at SeaWorld and the newly passed NYC law banning wild animals in circuses. Indeed, public attitudes are already shifting in favor of freedom.