in all my infinite wisdom

Category: Changes needed

The Long, Cruel History of Concrete Bear Pits

written by Danny Prater

In 1879—140 years ago—one of the country’s first “bear pits” opened at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. In the startling historical photo below, you can see zoogoers looking on as a bear climbs a lone tree in a barren concrete pit. While our entire way of life has been revolutionized in the many decades since this photo was taken, things have remained shockingly unchanged for bears kept in captivity. In fact, bear pits have stayed relatively the same for so long that, were it not for the period clothing that they’re wearing, the people in this photo might be confused for roadside zoo patrons in 2019.

As our understanding of the complex social and physical needs of nonhuman animals has grown, people have become increasingly disillusioned with the idea of exploiting them for entertainment. In an attempt to more closely replicate animals’ natural habitats, most accredited zoo enclosures have been adapted over time to give animals more space and provide them with more mental stimulation. But bear pits, which are inherently cruel, don’t need to be modernized—they need to be closed down immediately.

While Lincoln Park Zoo’s bear pit, pictured above, has closed, at tourist traps and roadside zoos across America today, hundreds of bears spend their lives confined to small concrete-floored enclosures or pits. Some cubs are separated from their mothers as infants, so instead of being properly nurtured, they spend their days being forced to participate in photo ops with tourists. Their lives are typically devoid of any comfort or outlets for engaging in natural behavior.

These side-by-side photos show how little bear pits have changed over the decades, highlighting just how long this cruelty has been going on:

THEN (1951)NOWLEFT: St. Louis Post-DispatchLEFT: A polar bear in a barren pit begs for food at the St. Louis Zoo in the 1950s.
RIGHT: Two bears are in a barren pit at the Cherokee Bear Zoo.

THEN (1923)NOWLEFT: Bears are shown in a pit at the St. Louis Zoo in 1923.
RIGHT: Here’s a present-day bear pit at the Cherokee Bear Zoo in North Carolina.

THEN (1905)NOWLEFT: This photo, circa 1905, shows bears in a pit in Bern, Switzerland.
RIGHT: In 2018, a bear is in a pit at Three Bears General Store in Tennessee.


Bears are highly intelligent animals who experience a wide range of emotions. In the wild, they forage for a variety of foods and dig in the soft earth, brush, and leaves—but concrete pits deprive them of everything that’s natural and important to them. Surrounded by solid walls, they can’t scan the horizon, gain a perspective on their surroundings, or make much use of their acute sense of smell.

Enough is enough. Let’s end bear pit cruelty.

Take Action to Help Bears Today!

At Pymatuning Deer Park in Pennsylvania, an apparently arthritic bear named Bosco is being forced to live in a concrete pit, even after his female companion, who suffered from arthritis, died. Pymatuning was previously cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for confining the arthritic female bear in such inadequate conditions. Arthritis is known to be caused and exacerbated by living on concrete—but today, Bosco still struggles to walk on the same hard surface. With your help, he could live out his days free from concrete in a vast enclosure and get the care that he desperately needs.URGE PYMATUNING TO CLOSE ITS BEAR PIT AND SURRENDER BOSCO!

Click the links to learn more about—and take action for—bears being held in deplorable conditions at roadside zoos like Three Bears General Store and Cherokee Bear Zoo.

Help end this outdated cruelty. Join PETA in working toward a compassionate, humane future when no bears are exploited for cheap human entertainment.TAKE ACTION: HELP BEARS SUFFERING IN TOURIST 

We need Congress to declare Trump has no authorization to use military force in Iran

Trump issued an assassination order for Iran’s top general, escalating tensions and bringing us dangerously close to another endless war. And tensions continue to rise as over the last 24 hours Trump has used Twitter to issue dangerous and reckless threats to the Irarian people. Congress must use its power to stop Donald Trump’s reckless march to war with Iran. 

RSVP now for a national strategy call on Wednesday, January 8, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT to hear from foreign policy experts and MoveOn leaders on the ramifications of Trump’s attack on Iran and how we can take action together to prevent another endless war.

RSVP now
#NoWarWithIran

Here is what we know so far about the situation, which is still unfolding: 

  • Donald Trump brought us to the brink recklessly and unnecessarily. After successful diplomacy by the Obama administration and an intensive campaign from grassroots leaders, including MoveOn, to approve the Iran nuclear deal, the risk of war with Iran was at its lowest point in decades. Since taking office, Trump has surrounded himself with war-hawk advisers and changed course from pursuing peace to acts of war. His attacks, from the Muslim Ban to withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal to painful sanctions on Iranian citizens to the military assassination this week, make America less safe and could incite a war with devastating consequences for Iran, Iraq, the United States, and other countries across the globe.
  • War with Iran would be catastrophic, potentially worse than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Starting a war with Iran would likely destabilize an entire region, funnel U.S. resources into an unwinnable conflict, and unleash mass-scale human suffering on Iran’s 80+ million civilian population and beyond.
  • Only Congress can decide whether U.S. forces should be put into harm’s way. Congress has the power to authorize war, and a bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate recently voted to prevent Trump from starting another war. However, that language did not make it into the final bill. 

So here’s our chance: We need Congress to declare Trump has no authorization to use military force in Iran and cut off any money he might try to use for more attacks. 

How can we do it? RSVP now for a mass call on Wednesday, January 8, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT to come together to stop Trump’s escalation to war with Iran.

Endless wars feed billions of dollars into military contractors and their wealthy owners and cost untold numbers of lives from all countries involved. MoveOn members have been leaders in the anti-war movement since our founding and played a crucial role in the opposition to the Iraq War. We must continue to work for peace as an essential part of how we create an America where everyone can thrive.

As we welcomed in a new year and new decade, none of us anticipated or wanted this incident to define how this new decade begins. Trump’s recklessness knows no bounds. Whether you are feeling hopeful or weary, ready to take to the streets or seeking reprieve from relentless organizing, or a valid combination of all of these, this call is for you. It is an opportunity to come together as a nation and as a community. We are in this together.

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