As ashamed as I am to say this: I’ve been arrested.
Unfortunately for me, I was arrested on a holiday, even before the festivities had started. Because of this, no one was able to bail me out until well after the day was over—as in the next day, in the afternoon.
I was released 26 hours after my arrest.
The worst part of the experience wasn’t the embarrassment of the arrest (this is what I hear a lot from others); for me, the worst part was not knowing when I would be released.
Not just out of custody, I didn’t so much as care when I got out of jail, but I did care about when I would get let out of my cell.
The cell was a cinder block of cement. It was nothing like what they portray in Orange is the New Black. It was a dungeon of absolute terror with an electronic door that latched securely shut and would not open lest the warden pressed a singular button. What if the system malfunctioned? I obsessively asked myself. There was only a small window looking out into the common area, and I knew it must’ve been impenetrable.
What if I could never break out of this room, if the occasion called for it?
What if I died here with no food or water to sustain me?
I’ve never struggled with claustrophobia, but in that cell I absolutely felt it. There were no windows, not even in the common area. How would I know what time of day it was? All there was, the clock ticking mercilessly slow above the warden’s head.
How would I receive my daily quotient of vitamin D?
I was not released from my solitary cell for the first seven hours. When I was allowed out, into the common room, I immediately had to approach the warden. There was no toilet paper in our cell, unless we specifically requested it, and there were certainly no tampons or sanitary pads. Blood had been dripping down my pant leg for the past three hours where it pooled into my sock.
The other inmates nodded their heads in sympathy. “It happens more than you’d think,” one said to me.
I couldn’t even procure the most basic of necessities. My existence was entirely in the hands of the warden and however her temperament struck her. Luckily, she wasn’t a cruel woman, and she gave me a handful of pads and a new pair of pants. But she would’ve never known my struggle had I not made my problem known.
How would an animal express their discontent?
After my experience in the jail, I realized how cruel a treatment it was to lock someone up, how absurd it was to decide a creature’s existence hinged on the entertainment of others and was strictly controlled by its keeper’s monitoring.
What kind of a life is that?
I’ve always loved animals, and I’ve been to my fair share of viewing venues. However, a moment’s glance is not validation enough for me to say that an animal deserves to live life in captivity. For I’ve never seen a sadder sight than a lone Kudu hiding behind a shrub in a cage full of birds, alone and desperately wishing for a foot of shade that its enclosure did not provide.
Excuse me, but f*ck that.
“Kudu…a large grayish brown African antelope…with large annulated spirally twisted horns…” ~ Merriam Webster Dictionary online.
I would never wish that fate on any creature, and now that I’ve been given a slight taste of captive animals’ conditions, I will forever advocate against it. When I have children, they will not be allowed to go to the zoo, and if the school arranges a field trip—my kids will stay home. No permission slip signed, not an ounce of toleration.
As for me, I won’t perpetuate this cruelty. I won’t casually stroll amongst the gorillas and wild cats, eyeing one or the other—but ultimately, not giving a thought to how their days are spent. I will wonder from afar because, if the demand is not there, then the supply will decline. If we band together and quit attending venues such as these, then their funding will dwindle. These establishments might close—their breeding ceased, their captives released to preservations. No new animals caught and sentenced to these cells.
Now, I’ve taken a risk by publicly airing out my criminal record and may be turned down by potential employers because of this article. Perhaps my peers will judge me. That is not a concern for me because if I can convince one other person other than myself to abstain, then some good has come from my experience.
This is why I will never again attend another zoo, and if you feel the same way, then I hope you never will again, too.
Author: Brittany Ann Bandemer
Associate Editor: Laura G. Williams // Editor: Renee Picard
Image: betawolf311 at Flickr