Still, even at their worst, there is one thing you can say about bunny huggers (usually while shaking your head and sighing): "They mean well..."
I'd take that any day over the sadists.
Sadists are a special breed of evil, one that I've thankfully only encountered on very rare occasions. These aren't the visitors who bang on the glass to make the animal look - they often don't know how annoying what they are doing is. They aren't the little kids who chase the peacocks (maybe in search of a feather) - they're too young to know what they do. They aren't the teens who spit at llamas - which is disgusting and stupid, but at least does no actual physical harm, and (if they are actually close enough) does raise the entertaining specter that they might be spat back upon in turn. I've never seen a visitor hit a llama with their spit wad. I have seen llamas with better aim.
The sadists are the ones who want to hurt animals. Just because.
What brought this up? The unhappy fate of Pinky, a Chilean flamingo at Busch Gardens in Tampa.
Pinky was euthanized after sustaining serious injuries, inflicted by a guest who was, to put it mildly, a major asshole. The bird was seized and violently slammed to the ground; the offender, one Joseph Anthony Corrao, tried to flee the scene, but was stopped and apprehended. Pinky was famous at the park for "dancing" for visitors (a behavior flamingos go through in the mud while trying to stir up hidden invertebrates). I can't imagine how devastated the Busch Gardens flamingo keepers must be.
"It's beyond senseless," declared the presiding judge, going so far as to say that the crime "actually borders of depraved... I don't know if you have other issues, but I don't know who does that."
Assholes, your honor. Assholes, sadists, and sadistic assholes is who.
The dangerous thing about sadists is that there are so few of them that it becomes easy to forget that they are out there. As part of our mission of education and conservation, we try to bring people and animals in proximity to one another. It's a phenomenal chance to let people experience the beauty of an animal up close and personal, and maybe become inspired enough to change the way they live to conserve it. It also unfortunately puts animals in proximity to that small but dangerous minority who would hurt them.
There are times that I wonder if it's worth it. Rest in peace, Pinky.