Farmington amusement park Lagoon opened for the spring on Saturday. To drive into the parking lot, however, guests would have to pass a group of people holding signs with messages like “Lagoonsucks.com,” “Do they look happy to you?” or “Lagoon: An animal frightmare.”
Nearly 40 people joined the protest against Lagoon’s Wild Kingdom zoo, stationing themselves at two locations just outside the park from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Several Weber State University students helped with the protest to represent Animal Unanimity, an animal rights organization for WSU students and Ogden citizens.
“Lagoon has a track record of Animal Welfare Act violations that have been given by the USDA,” said Jordan Kasteler, a member of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, which had the idea for the protest. “The USDA only gives violations — I mean, they hold minimal standards, so for the USDA to give a violation from the Animal Welfare Act, it’s pretty significant. And they’ve had about 30 violations, most recent one being last year.”
The protesters passed out fliers to anyone who stopped, which contained information on the zoo and appeals for supporters to boycott Lagoon until the animals, which range from Utah natives like elk and deer to imported animals like tigers and zebra, are relocated to sanctuaries. Several of the protesters held signs asking passersby to honk to show their support, which many people driving by did. Some of the protesters also went up to an overpass by Lagoon to hold up a banner, but a nearby policeman asked them to leave and remain at their designated points.
Katie Romig, a WSU anthropology sophomore and co-president of Animal Unanimity with Berlin Schlegel, said she has never been to Lagoon, and hadn’t even heard about the zoo until the club started planning to participate in the boycott. Another member of Animal Unanimity, communications sophomore Raychel Johnson, said her family always refused to visit Lagoon’s zoo.
“Growing up, Lagoon was always a place where we would go, (but) we would never go to the zoo, we never patronized the zoo,” Johnson said. “. . . I don’t wanna see animals that look like that.”
Janene Pearce, a graduate of Brigham Young University who joined the protest, cited animal behaviorists who have said captive animals descend into depression, manic pacing and self-mutilation.
“None of us are meant to be captive,” said Pearce, who heard about the protest on UARC’s Facebook page. “We know what it would be like for us; it’s the same thing for them. It’s no different. Maybe worse, because they don’t understand it.”
Kasteler said the zoo is not the primary attraction at Lagoon anyway.
“Regardless of how the animals are kept here, regardless of the care, the fact is that the animals do not belong here in a noisy environment with noisy rides, on a train ride with kids yelling at them, throwing rocks and trash, etc. . . . and people don’t come to Lagoon for the animals . . . Most people don’t even know there’s a zoo here. . . . There’s not even really a compelling reason that they should be here at all.”
Lagoon’s media spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
UARC will stage another protest against Lagoon this Saturday at 11 a.m. WSU students interested in joining Animal Unanimity can find its website under WSU’s Clubs and Organizations page.