S/O to this lovely human.
Ricky Gervais lent his voice, celebrity, and activism when he took to Facebook to support a petition to have a female black bear released and transported to a proper sanctuary under the care and delegation of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
"Little Ricki" or "Ricky" was born in captivity, later purchased by James McDaniel, otherwise known as "Jim Mack", where he’s kept the bear housed in a concrete-floor cage living amidst inhumane conditions bereft of foraging, digging, climbing or exploring opportunities, without proper nest/denning materials. "Ricki" was also fed an inadequate and insufficient diet of dog food and corn purchased from public vending machines where it’s slipped into her cage through a half-pipe where it falls onto the same floor where she defecates and urinates.
Personal aside: I pay attention to animal abuse/rights, and certainly, there are many stories such as this or far worse I could share regularly with everyone (see my posts on Sea World or animal sentience, for instance). This particular news is a bit more personal to me on a local level, because this bear has been held captive and mistreated in an “entertainment attraction” called “Jim Mack’s”, a place to get ice cream, play miniature golf, and/or, observe and interact with the animals…one of which, was “Ricky”. It never sat well with me. Any time one of my friends had a birthday party there or my parents took us to visit as kids for mini-golf, all I could think of was how every single patron putting forth their money to this place was further endorsing this kind of mistreatment.
York PA (my hometown in Southern Pennsylvania) neighbors Hallam, PA, where this attraction is located, so, I wasn’t terribly surprised when I browsed the comments section to see the support for this petition as well as the backlash from the jaded, narrow-minded residents around the area. After all, I was raised in this area of the country amidst this type of anti-intellectualism. Hallam was only about 5-10 minutes away from me, and Dover, the same. Dover, PA should ring a bell as ground zero for one of the biggest and memorable anti-evolution trials in the entire world: Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District which put Intelligent Design front and center as a powerful force of ignorance and a forewarning to other states that religious fundamentalism is alive and well in the United States. PBS NOVA produced a special program on this called ‘Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial’.
Suffice it to say, being born and raised in Southern PA sparked the flame for my passion to drive science literacy and seek to be an ambassador for reason, skepticism, and critical thinking.
This motion to have “Ricky’ released is far overdue and well deserved. As the comment thread — seen here on the York Daily Record website — is indicative of people’s passion and empathy as fellow residents on this good Earth, but which also accompany comments of many who exhibit cognitive dissonance, lack of understanding regarding our relationship to the biodiversity of life we thrive alongside, presenting a reminder of how much work we have ahead of us as a collective society to extinguish this type of cruelty and negligence to all animals (including ourselves).
Evidence of this can further be demonstrated when indulging in this brief interview with Jim Mack himself, as he clearly has a foggy understanding of what a bear is, how they thrive, what they eat, and most importantly, the purpose and function of animal sanctuaries in general. Interviews like this are performed and published by people of the York County community who like to instigate a warm and fuzzy nostalgic feeling supported by a “that’s the way my father did it” reinforcement of pseudo-values which have so warped the minds of society for generations. The interview is meant to be a little heartbreaking and invoke sympathy for poor Jimmy Mack who just wanted to take after his father and keep the caged animal menagerie of back-in-the-day roadside attractions alive and well. Not sorry I’m not sorry.
For insight into “Ricky’s” living conditions prior to the lawsuit and transfer of the bear out of Pennsylvania, see this video, which was filmed by the local residents of Hallam, PA who sought out the Animal Legal Defense Fund, whereby they collaboratively sued Jim Mack, accompanying a petition to reinforce this action.
Thanks in major part to Ricky Gervais, the petition to speak for the health and future of this black bear acquired the signatures of 80,000+ people, shared over 20,000 times.
So, where is “Little Ricki” now?
Currently living in an introductory pen located inside 20 acres of open plains designed for bears at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Kennesburg, Colorado. Until Spring, that is, when “Ricky” will be free to explore the entire area. Photos here, courtesy of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Video of “Ricky” at her new digs, here.
”Ricky’s new habitat will be grass, ground, trees, and ponds. Through her pen, Ricky will be able grow accustomed to her surroundings and slowly meet the dozen or so other bears on the property…it gives her a chance to get used to the sights, sounds, and smells. When food is scarce, bears keep to themselves, but because the facility provides plenty of food for the bears, they are able to drop their guard and actually become sociable. Many of them don’t know they’re a lion or a tiger or a bear until they see another one. She’ll come out of her shell and really expand her horizons. Here, she’ll have so much more to do every day. It’ll definitely be a nicer life.”
Needless to say, this is a very small step in the right direction for our society going forward. Although there numerous activities going on at this moment which trump in horror one bear and her life in captivity, these kinds of efforts embody the collective consciousness of us all. Stories of action and defense of lives who cannot rightfully speak for themselves provide necessary fuel to ignite further activity in other complacent facets of our society for subsequent generations.
So, once again, S/O and love to Ricky Gervais for extending his passion and providing a well deserved boost to a petition which may certainly have gone overlooked, falling short of voices who would have joined in this cause from places far and beyond the local community of Hallam, had they known about it. With Gervais’ help, it was spread widely, garnering the attention necessary to provide a new life to another, and it’s my hope, invoke a sense of kinship with a fellow mammal (Ricky G and Little Ricki, that is).