Last Tuesday, the San Diego Zoo announced that it had made the difficult decision to euthanize Ranchipur, a 50-year-old male Asian elephant who was suffering from multiple ailments associated with old age. The news was greeted with sadness by the zoo’s many fans, who delighted in Ranchipur’s soulful expression and playful spirit. But it was greeted with something approaching excitement by the zoo’s permanent residents, many of whom are eager to share his fate. Meet DEATH (Dying Enables Animals’ Transcendent Happiness), a coalition of critters who would rather die than spend another day being gawked at by the curious and unsympathetic crowds who serve as their daily company.
"We know that we will never enjoy the freedoms afforded to humanity,” said Petunia, a morose macaque who speaks through the use of sign language for the coalition. “We know that it is our lot to be imprisoned and placed on display until we are deemed no longer fit for viewing, and then euthanized. But the passage and implementation of an assisted suicide bill in California has given us a strange kind of hope: the hope that our daily dousing with despair may be cut short a little sooner than was once possible. If the state is willing to extend the practice of euthanasia to humans, then perhaps it will also be willing to extend the right to choose the time and place for such a fate to animals.”
“Next time you’re at the zoo,” pleaded Petunia, “take a good, long look at our faces. Ask yourself, Is that animal happy? Or does that animal’s expression indicate that it would much prefer the release of sweet oblivion to this absurd and torturous pantomime of real life in a cage decorated to look just like home? I think you’ll find the answer is clear.”