Web viewNot far from where I live in Southampton was a pub where my mother used to go for a glass of sherry or two in the 1930s. The entertainment was unusual: in

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Boozy zoo parties are a throwback to Victorian mad menageriesPhilip Hoare

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Not far from where I live in Southampton was a pub where my mother used to go for a glass of sherry or two in the 1930s. The entertainment was unusual: in the garden was a bear pit, complete with ursine inmates. It was a Victorian hangover, like the bears on leads still exhibited for tourists benefit in the streets of St Petersburg, or the circular sea lion pool in New Yorks Central Park, whose inhabitants swim endlessly round and round. Or, for that matter, any number of oceanaria where orca, dolphins and beluga whales spend their lives in thrall to their trainers whistles.

These modern circus acts arent far removed from the medieval Royal Menagerie in the Tower of London, with its heraldic display of leopards, Barbary lions, and a polar bear which used to be led down to the Thames to fish for its lunch. Its elephant, a gift to Henry III, apparently died of a surfeit of red wine, but left London a lasting legacy, in the shape of the Elephant and Castle, which was named after it.

Much as I admire the amazing scientific work done by London Zoo, this weeks call by the RSPCA, Peta and five other charities to end its evening animal raves has to be a good one. As history shows, people, animals and alcohol dont mix. These parties, where birds have reportedly been punched, a tiger doused in beer and butterflies crushed underfoot, are the equivalent of people paying to peer at the lunatics in Bedlam. They also point up the anachronism of the zoo in itself whose origins, ironically, lie in a burgeoning 19th-century awareness of cruelty to animals.

In Regency London, the Exeter Exchange was home to a menagerie which housed lions, tigers, crocodiles and sea lions on the upper floor of a large building on the Strand a kind of animal department store. Here Jane Austen and Lord Byron, among others, came to view nature tamed and commodified animals as entertainment, extensions of colonial conquest. The star was an Indian elephant named Chunee. But when it accidentally crushed its trainer in 1826, the decision was made to exterminate the brute. The botched procedure required 152 musket shots and stabbing spears; the animals bellows of pain could be heard in the street below. The public hideousness of Chunees death prompted letters to the Times from correspondents outraged by the cruel spectacle. As a result, the Zoological Society of London was founded that year, seeking a more enlightened way of keeping animals.

Elephants remained the big draw, as John Sutherland details in his recent book, Jumbo. In the mid-19th century, Jumbo became a kind of interchangeable identity, to be adopted from one elephant to another, much as modern orca in captivity all bear the name Shamu, as a way of disguising their high mortality rates. The original Jumbo was the star of London Zoo, carrying children on its back in a howdah, while its keeper, Matthew Scott, profited from the penny buns he sold to visitors, and which he passed on to his charge after checking for keys, coins and other articles which members of the public thought it amusing to try to feed to the animal. When Jumbo died, hundreds of coins and a policemans whistle were found in its guts. Elephants, like cetaceans, primates and even parrots, are now considered by some to be non-human persons, whose rights we need to protect.

Its not as if we havent had fair warning. In 1789 the philosopher Jeremy Bentham accepted we might kill animals for food: But is there any reason why we should be suffered to torment them? Not any that I can see. Are there any why we should not be suffered to torment them? Yes, several. Bentham equated our treatment of animals to slavery and racism: It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

This is not a question of anthropomorphism, but of ethics. Some people even think this newspaper should not publish photographs of cute animals in zoos. The last zoo I went to, against my better judgment, was in Tasmania purely because I was keen to see a Tasmanian devil, that feisty, cartoonish marsupial, in the flesh. There he was, running round and round his compound, as they all do. It was midday, and most of the other animals were asleep. But a wealthy American couple had paid for a private audience with a wombat. I watched, appalled, as a pair of keepers bestraddled the hapless beasts burrow and called for it by name. When it declined, sensibly, to emerge, one of the keepers hoicked it out, blinking, into the antipodean sun. The visitors then proceeded to pet and paw the poor animal. It wasnt quite the equivalent of London Zoos evening openings, which are well-intentioned. But it occurred to me that we havent moved very far from the Exeter Exchange and its mad menagerie.

Complete the following questions on paper and then submit answers and annotated article.

1. Try working out the meaning of the words youve underlined using their context as a guide.

2. Summarise the writers argument. Use bullet points and your own words.

3. Show how ONE linking sentence functions in the writers line of thought.

4. Choose three different features of sentence structure you have noted. Why has the writer decided to use each? How do they convey his argument?

5. Evaluate the closing paragraphs effectiveness as a conclusion to the passage as a whole.

The Guardian 4th September 2014