By John Di Leonardo
This week my organization has been embroiled in the controversy of a “sloth encounter” operating without a permit in violation of Long Island’s Suffolk County’s sanitary code for several months. Larry Wallach, the notorious animal exhibitor who runs this operation, was just cited by the Suffolk County Department of Health and we’re urging officials to stop him from exploiting these sensitive animals in violation of four of the five fundamental vows of Jainism: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
Videos taken and posted online by Larry Wallach depict him electroshocking a juvenile tiger named Sheba, threatening a dog with an electric prod, and repeatedly hitting a wallaby and grabbing them by the throat, causing irreparable injury (himsa) to the psyches of these animals in addition to any physical injuries they may have sustained. Even though just last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited Wallach after finding a sloth in his cluttered garage with hazards in and around the animal’s enclosure that “could injure the animal by burning, broken glass, or electrical shock,” he tells the public that he is an animal rescuer in staunch contrast to his long list of federal Animal Welfare Act citations. Wallach also falsely advertises his facility as a simulation of the Costa Rican jungle. In reality, it is a former pool supplies store next to an ice cream shop. Behind blacked-out windows and under artificial lights, he displays the sloths, including a baby, in plastic dog carriers, on chain-link fences, and according to one report even on a towel rack outside the store next to a parking lot on a busy roadway. Truthfulness is nowhere to be seen, teaching visitors the harmful and erroneous lesson that animals are ours to dominate and exploit how we see fit. It is currently a mystery where these animals were obtained, however, whether they were captured from their wild homes or bred into a lifetime of imprisonment, their freedom, their autonomy, and everything natural and important to them, has been stolen from them in the name of avarice. Treating them as possessions in order to fund a lavish lifestyle is the epitome of greed and selfishness.
Violating these important vows does not only harm animals, but our own species as well. Violence toward animals hardens the hearts of humans and exploiting them can potentially spread disease. Last week, Wallach threatened me over my inquiries about his sordid business and over this weekend, it was alleged that one of the sloths he holds captive bit a child.
Long Island was once a hotbed for cruel animal acts like this, but in the 21st Century, the public no longer wants to see animals exploited or beaten into submission. India has banned the use of dolphinariums and Ringling Bros & Barnum Bailey Circus is planning a comeback using only willing human performers who can go home at the end of the day and retire when they wish.
For this week’s Anuvrat (or small vow), I urge you to contact Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter at [email protected] or (631) 224-5500 and urge her to stop sloths from being exploited in her township and to share this article with your friends and family to ensure they steer clear of this abusive exhibitor. Thank you for speaking up for animals.