My aunt took me to the Bronx Zoo when I was 12 years old, and I hated it because I felt sorry for the animals in cages.
I can't watch those documentaries where the lions eat the gazelles, either.
I finally went back to the Bronx Zoo to see if the animals have it any better than they did when I was 12.
Jim Doherty showed me around.
"Most of these animals were all born here, and ah, wild animals are not that free," says Doherty. "Wild animals all live within certain boundaries and maybe there are more restrictions here but also life is much better for them here."
Most of the animals at the Bronx Zoo are not in cages. Anymore. You can hardly notice the barriers that keep the people and the animals apart.
Some animals are basically nicer than others, like people. But Doherty says they are all different.
Some are nicer? "I like them all," he says.
And who would be the enemy of the red panda? Leopards. "They're not nasty. Not at all," says Doherty. "Ah, I suppose if you were a small bird or a mouse, you think they're very nasty. Because they eat a small bird or a mouse if they can catch them."
And, as Doherty says, they eat a lot of bamboo. They're a lot like raccoons - they're omnivorous. They'll eat almost anything.
There's not much bamboo in the Bronx. "No, but we grow a lot of bamboo here in the zoo. For them," says Doherty.
My favorite animals, next to English bulldogs, are elephants. Frank Leonard is the elephant's best friend at the Bronx Zoo.
"They belong to the Wildlife Conservation Society," says Leonard, who thinks of them as his own. "Of course, I can't take them home."
He says they are just as good as any dog, and smarter: "Smarter than a dog. Smarter than a horse. But now you're going to hear from the dog and horse people."
He has to be careful not to get stepped on. But he says he feels safer in here than he does on 42nd Street.
The snow leopard from the High Himalayas is probably one of the rarest cats in the world. Doherty says this is a cat that was killed for its skin to make fur coats.
Does he hate hunters? "I don't hate hunters. I don't think a lot of trophy hunters. They are after the biggest and the best. The most handsome, whatever," he says.
How about the average deer hunter? "No. The average deer hunter that is going out, hunting deer for venison. I have no problems with that at all," he says.
A big favorite of the kids who come to the zoo are the seals. All sea lions are seals. But not all seals are sea lions, I think.
ANDY: Have you ever seen a whale before?
KIDS: These aren't whales.
ANDY: They aren't whales?
ANDY: I thought they were whales.
KIDS: They're seals.
ANDY: They look like whales.
KIDS: They're seals.
Animal rights activists still hate zoos the way I did when I was 12, but the animals in the Bronx Zoo, anyway, seem pretty happy.
I remember the story of the two philosophers looking into a lake. One looks down and says, "Those fish are happy." The other says, "You, not being a fish, don't know whether they're happy or not."
The first guy says, "You, not being me, don't know whether I know whether they're happy or not."