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Two Vegans Visit the Zoo

January 27, 2019



Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. These were the two mini donkeys who lived next door to us growing up. They were the cutest and sweetest souls. I would call them over and they would come to the fence that divided our properties. I would feed them grass and hang out with them.  A couple years after I moved out for college, I found out new people moved next door and the donkeys were gone. My mom told me neither the old neighbors or the new ones wanted them so they were gone. I had no idea what happened to them.

This year for Christmas, my parents invited the same newish neighbors over. I then found out that ten years ago, they had given them to the San Francisco zoo, the petting zoo no less! I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. I mean I basically consider zoos animal prisons.

Nevertheless, I wanted to go see them again. For almost a month I debated over whether I should go or not. I didn’t want to give my money to an animal prison. Plus, San Francisco zoo was notorious for sucking pretty hard. Despite all that, one night I decided to see if I could find Cleo and Marc on YouTube. Since everyone loves to post everything these days, I thought I might be able to see a video with them in it. Low and behold I did! I spotted them in two different videos. Tears flooded my eyes. I knew I had to go see them.

After canceling a couple of times, Jay, my hubby, and I were headed to the zoo, oh geez. The plan was to go directly to the children’s zoo section and not look at the other animals so I wouldn’t have to freak out about the terrible conditions. I didn’t want to see the animals looking sad or sick.

We drove the hour drive into the city, took the scenic route. Have I mentioned how beautiful San Francisco can be? So lucky to live so close, smell the ocean, watch the waves, feel the crisp air on my face.

We parked (that was an adventure in its own) then waited in line to buy tickets. As we were standing there, we could see a giraffe in the distance and what looked like an elk kind of close by. They were both just chilling. We bought our tickets and we started walking through the zoo, I noticed it looked a great deal better than I remembered as a kid. It was clean, and there were many more trees and nature around.


We were getting closer to the children’s zoo section, walking fast (I may have been kind of pulling Jay a bit), when I glimpsed a peek at them. I let go of Jay’s hand and started running. I rounded a corner and saw them again, “Cleo!!! Marc Anthony!!!”, I yelled in the middle of the zoo. Not even caring or noticing other people, I saw only them.  I finally got to the Children’s Zoo section. I ran to the outside fence and called for them again. They didn’t seem to respond to my calls. I ran inside the barn part to see if I could get closer.

There they were! Waiting to get feed, of course. I called their names again and Marc Anthony came over, then Cleo followed.



It had been ten years. Jay soon arrived with a big smile. “Do you think they remember me?” I asked him. He reassured me that they did. Maybe they did. Just then a zoo supervisor lady came out. Oh geez, maybe she was going to scold me for petting them when the sign clearly states no petting and no feeding. Strangely enough, she was amazingly nice! Her name was Eileen. She was surprisingly caring and quite knowledgeable, it was such a relief. So was the condition the two were in. They looked happy and healthy, again I was surprised. I mean their pasture when they lived next door was bigger and greener. However, they were always alone. I never saw anyone else spending time and talking to them. They were only there to mow the grass, sadly.  Here they had someone looking after their health and at least one person who actually pays attention to them, Eileen. I could breathe easier.

I told her my story with the donkeys and she said she could tell that we knew each other. She told me they go by different names now. She then even opened the gate and let me both pet and feed them. 

It was wonderful to be close to them and spend time with them for a bit. I went back out the gate so that I wouldn’t keep Eileen from her work. I’m glad she stayed, it further showed her protection of the animals. Jay and I stayed for a while.


We watched them interact within their new environment. I even got to give the “aren’t animals great, that’s why I don’t eat them” mini-speech to a bunch of kids a couple times. Haha.  We left knowing they were alright, and better off than many of the animals we have met. I was happy, they were alright.

Later I wondered why I did not think or feel the zoo was as horrible as I once thought. I finally realized why. It was because of the conditions of the farm animals around where we live.

  Yes. These farms you guys, are the worst. I mean I guess they are better than the giant farms you see here and there, but still. These animals I visit and feed (when the farmers allow me) are so neglected. Their nail beds are too long and growing (what I can imagine is painful) into each other. They have poop stuck to their coats. There are bloody gashes on their skin put there by huge freaky flies, I mean the list goes on and on. They are always alone, often afraid of humans.  That’s just some of the stuff I notice.  And where the vibe of the zoo wasn’t too bad (where we went anyway) the vibes at most of these farms is far from good. The fear, the loneliness, the neglect, you can feel it. But despite all that, there is still, from these sweet souls I visit on these farms… curiously, friendliness, hope, and sometimes even happiness. Animals are amazing. Still so kind to us after how they have been treated. Weird and beautiful at the same time.

So, am I going back to visit them? Yes.
Does this mean I am endorsing zoos?!?? No. Well, I don’t know. it’s hard to say. I mean the zoo was mostly full of little kids. Does it not give them an understanding and a love for the animals? Hopefully! Would I rather it be a sanctuary, not a zoo? Well yes! I mean, are there worse places for animals? Of course.  Do zoos need better conditions? Duh. But when you see these farms we live around, you too might think zoos are a fun vacation spot in comparison. I do think next time we go visit Cleo and Marc, we will explore the rest of the zoo and see how the other animals fare.

Well, if you have read this far, you might wanna know what we had to eat during our little excursion! So, here’s what I packed for lunch. Sorry, no pictures this time as I was too stressed about getting there.

I packed for us:
One Tupperware with apple slices, orange slices, and some raspberries.
Two PB & J with banana and chia seeds sandwiches. Actually, Jay’s was almond butter.
Two falafel sandwiches. I used that falafel mix from Trader Joe's ( great ingredients, non gmo, and super easy to make) and made two sandwich size patties, added tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, pickles, and mustard. Tell you what, it hit the spot!

Thanks for reading! xoxo


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