Claiming that its animals have a choice in the matter, the Toronto Zoo has begun vaccinating animals against COVID-19.
The zoo is using Zoetis, which is a coronavirus vaccine made for animals, according to Canadian TV station CP24.
“These are voluntary inoculations. The animals choose to come over and interact with the animal care staff and then are delivered the vaccine. Some days they participate. Some days, they don’t. So we’ll keep working at it until we get all 120 inoculated,” Toronto Zoo CEO Dolf DeJong said.
“According to the zoo, animals are given the choice if they want a vaccine or not.”
This is insane. Peak 🤡 🌎 must be near. https://t.co/4DojX8j8IO
— Joel (@jahoek) April 24, 2022
A zoo video shows that animals have been “trained to participate voluntarily in their own health care.”
The zoo worker in the video said animals have been trained “to voluntarily present an area of the body … for a pretend poke” by giving the animals a treat.
When animals come by for another treat, that will be considered enough consent for the zoo.
The zoo video says that “by giving the animals the option to participate in their own healthcare it allows us to monitor their health more closely and efficiently without causing any undue stress.”
Is this vaccination program a good idea?
In a news release, the zoo said, “Voluntary positive reinforcement training is something the Wildlife Care staff have been working on with their animals for many years and has been an integral step in ensuring the vaccine rollout results in minimal stress and disruption to the animals’ routines.”
“Many of the animals willingly present an area of the body (such as an arm or tail) as part of their regular training exercises with their trusted keepers, with desirable treats often used as a reward for their participation,” the zoo said.
The zoo said that animals are not forced to do what their keepers want at any given moment.
“A key component of these training sessions is that the animal always has the choice to participate in the training session or walk away and try again another time. This is not limited to just vaccines either! Many of the animals are happy to participate in regular X-rays, blood draws and hoof trimming, which allow the keepers and veterinary team to monitor their health regularly without causing the animals any undue stress. It requires constant patience and dedication, and it is a testament to the trust that is developed between the animals and their keepers as they work together each day,” the release said.
DeJong said primates, weasels, ferrets, tigers and pigs will be vaccinated. The zoo has no known COVID-19 cases and will be vaccinating those animals it believes are at the highest risk of the virus.
“This has been such a challenging time for us. We’ve all been worried about our well-being and our family’s well-being, but for your Toronto Zoo, the animals in our care, we have to be their voice and make sure we’re taking those steps (to protect them). So we’re grateful to have this tool deployed,” he said.
— CP24 (@CP24) April 21, 2022
“The health and safety of our animals is a priority, and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure we protect their health,” the zoo said in its release
“This includes giving them their regular vaccines from when they are first born, providing them with the highest level of medical care throughout their lives and administering the new vaccines to fight COVID-19 that has proved to be deadly in some animals in other zoos.”