There is a coffee shop in Seoul where you can spend time with some raccoons rescued from the fur industry. The raccoon space is separated from the rest of the cafe and you have to pay about 7000 won for the chance to interact with them. They were rescued by the owners as babies and she gets them directly from the breeders who sell the raccoons to fur makers and the money the cafe charges goes toward taking care of these naughty critters. She has rescued three raccoons so far and plans on rescuing more in the future. Being that they were bred and raised in captivity, they are well socialized with humans, however, they are still animals with sharp teeth and feisty personalities of their own, so guests are clearly warned about how to handle the raccoons (or be handled by them, in our case). We were warned that they might try to climb on us which might result in torn clothing or small scratches, to not bother a resting raccoon as they might bet startled and lash out or take any personal items such as phones or lipstick as these natural born thieves will reach into your pocket and take off with the treasures they “found”.
As guests in their “den”, we were climbed on and our hair messed up and chewed on. Yes, really. One little guy was going through my hair like a monkey would, grabbing a bunch and moving it to the side then chew little bits of my hair off. It was so cute and he was having so much fun that I didn’t have the heart to stop him. The little white coon climbed on Kellie’s shoulder and hung out for a bit before climbing her rope to her room and disappearing for the rest of the time we were there.
I seldom, if ever, promote using wild animals for the entertainment of humans. I don’t visit zoos, go to aquariums or watch circus acts that involve animals. I debated back and forth about visiting the raccoon cafe, but I am a pragmatist. The raccoons, if not rescued, would have lived out a very short life living in a dirty cage, all alone, fed a diet that would fatten them up fast enough to be killed for their fur. They are no longer living in cages, live with a pack and are well taken care of in an environment that gives them privacy and space where the human visitors can’t reach or even see when they tire of us. The coons obviously “love’ their caretakers, running over when their names are called and climb on their bodies and cuddle into their arms. They also run the show, coming out and interact when they want to and hiding out when they are tired. I suppose the same concept could be applied to any animals kept in a zoo or an aquarium but I think it’s important to consider the animal’s natural behavior, instincts and their ability to adapt to a life living with, not for, humans. A dolphin who would swim hundreds of miles a day with predatory behaviors being in an oversize swimming pool, being forced to perform tricks for dead fish, has more chances of being depressed and miserable than raccoons who build a den and live in the same area as long as there is a trash can full of food would. I always try to think carefully about what business ethic my money is supporting. In this case, I chose to spend my money to fund rescuing of raccoons from a terrible fate of becoming another statistic of the fur industry.