By Dale Neal
Barker called for a tourism boycott of the Eastern Band and said Western North Carolina would feel economic repercussions if the treatment of bears doesn't improve.
Barker became personally involved at the request of the wife of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, of Florida. The Youngs visited Cherokee last summer on a family vacation, and Beverly Young said she was outraged when she saw how bears were treated in private zoos.
“Fur was literally hanging off of them,” she said. “We treat terrorists in Guantanamo better than these bears are treated, and these bears didn't do anything to us. We invaded their land.”
The Eastern Band's wildlife office also inspects the zoos.
The Animal Welfare Act requires standards including a safe, clean structure for caged animals, removal of animal waste and adequate food and water. Federal inspectors make unannounced visits once a year.
Who gets treated better...Guantanamo "terrorists" (suspects held unconstitutionally without a trial) or Cherokee bears? Hmm...hard to say. But I'll bet the bears are treated better than the victims of US torture at Abu Ghraib.
Best guess is that Barker, PETA, and the Cherokees will come to some agreement in which the Cherokees admit no wrongdoing but agree to upgrade the facilities.
For more on the subject, see Barker Bearish After Cherokee Meeting and Barker to Meet Hicks.