Do you really need to “Meet a Sloth”?

A commentary on the underlying ethics of exploiting animals for profit

By Jaina Kelly, Staff Writer

There’s no denying it: sloths are cool. They hang about in trees, move slower than molasses, and basically take forever to get anything done. Sloths are therefore an excellent mascot for anti-capitalism: less production, more chill. Right now, a tour run by Little Ray’s Reptile Sanctuary is visiting cities around Ontario where participants, for a fee of around $15 a person, can ogle at the magic of “exotic” animals. One of these animals, a sloth, has garnered the tour’s headline, which entices attendees to “Meet a Sloth.”

PC: Sophia Daoudi (Flickr)

Facebook reviews of Little Ray’s are mixed. They include several disgusted visitors who stress that many of the “sanctuary” enclosures were much too small for their animal inhabitants. One review states that the resident alligator can barely take two steps before it is in the water with very little room to swim,” and calls the situation “depressing,” while making sure to not forget to add a soulful broken heart emoji. A company representative responded in the post’s comment section, outlining their credentials as “SPCA and MNR” inspected facility that ranks #1 in “exotic rescue.” The company maintains that all animals being hosted area result of being saved from neglect, and the company is dedicated to educating the public on responsible pet ownership.


The observations of these concerned visitors, accurate or not, reflect the seedy underlying ethics of exploiting animals for profit – especially ones deemed “exotic.” Little Ray’s collection includes a kangaroo, which raises the question: why do we feel entitled to trapping animals into unpleasant, superficial environments in order to gawk at them in the name of “education”? While the animals at LR’s are deemed to be only in sanctuary after being neglected or abandoned, it still speaks toward our society’s general nonchalance around possessing animals as mere objects.

For a long time, we’ve perpetuated the cultural belief that humans may rightly exercise our domination over animals. This goes hand in hand with the myth that because animals do not experience the type of cognitive capabilities we do, they deserve to be subjected to our exploitation, exemplified through fur coats, factory farming, and the commonplace nature of pets (ranging from dogs to bearded dragons). Have we put enough thought into our mindless acquiring of living possessions? Is there any animal we won’t try to domesticize or claim as our own? Looking at the reality of our rapidly changing climate, it’s not hard to be skeptical of this idea that humans deserve to freely manipulate their environment. Being on “top of the food chain” is now a weak excuse. It hardly justifies the ongoing annihilation of our ecosystems for economic profit. While it is a positive thing to adopt abused animals in the name of preventing their further harm, touring these animals to mass crowds feels like a dramatic departure from what is supposed to be their “sanctuary.”