Bonsai Kittens Controversy
The Bonsai Kittens Website controversy rages on, even after several site shutdowns. In fact, even after several years, several investigations including one by the FBI, and widespread press coverage, emails on the subject are still circulating.
Before we continue, let's stop the flood of emails ahead of time - as a cat lover, I don't like the fact that the Bonsai Kitten (BK) website ever appeared.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, the BK website was started by an MIT student, and has been called one of the greatest college pranks of all time. The student, who used an assumed name, claims he never thought that cat lovers, and animal lovers in general, would ever raise a fuss about it. But animal lovers couldn't stand by and allow a website that depicted what amounted to the torturing of kittens to remain on the Internet.
The website, as everyone should know by now, is a hoax. The FBI investigated and found no evidence of cruelty to the cats, who were pictured living inside, and supposedly conformed to the shape of, glass jars. The images were definitely altered so as to seem as though the bonsai kittens were imprisoned inside the jars.
So, if it's a hoax, and I'm against its existence, why write about it?
Well, it turns out that every month, people are still performing searches on terms like bonsai kitten photos, and bonsai kittens. Every month in fact, even searches with mispellings such as bonzi kittens and bonzai kittens are being logged with great frequency.
The correct term is bonsai kitten. This is an obvious reference to the Japanese tradition of bonsai, where nature is shaped, manipulated and miniaturized in the form of a tree.
The Bonsai Kittens website has made the news many times, and there are articles about it on wired.com, the ASPCA website, and about.com mentions it in more than one section.
Besides that, and the fact that other respected websites such as The Humane Society of the United States have pages devoted to the subject, there's a four part answer to that question.
- It's a good excuse to raise awareness about animal cruelty.
- Some people did not realize it was a hoax, even more than a year after it was exposed as such. Some of these people were even circulating, via email, a "petition" to get the website removed from the Internet. That email claimed that cats were really being tortured, and that something needed to be done.As you can tell, I'm obviously against all forms of animal cruelty (after all, I didn't start www.cat-lovers-only.com because I don't like animals, right?). But here's the problem - spreading rumor and making false accusations takes time and money away from investigations of real animal cruelty. Like, for example, people who keep 20 cats and 10 dogs in a tiny house, and don't clean up after them or give them the right food or veterinary care.
- Sending "chain letter type" emails to everyone on your mailing list prior to checking the facts eats up valuable bandwidth, encourages SPAM, and contributes to the overall reputation of the Internet as being less than professional.
- The BK website does exist, and we can't deny that. We also can't deny that despite the fact that the website has been forced to shutdown and move hosts several times, that it may never go away. We also have to realize that thousands of people have seen, and continue to look for, information and pictures on this most controversial subject.
In addition, many people, including some who have publicly stated that they like cats, have BK mirror sites, so you'd have to shut them all down in order to get rid of it completely.
There have been endless email debates over this, including some that I have been involved in, and I think it has pretty much run its course. For that reason I will not debate this issue via email as I simply do not have the time.
Oh, I and I will not publish a bonsai cat picture, sorry.
The bottom line?
While the Bonsai Kittens website is a hoax, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the fact that real animal cruelty does exist.
Animal cruelty must be stopped. I urge you to do what you can and take a look at the following resources to learn more...
Humane Society Animal Cruelty Information Page - Frequently asked questions about animal cruelty.
Online Cruelty Information from ASPCA - Report Internet cruelty
A note to children...
Kids! Your first and best source of information is always your parent or guardian, not an Internet website. Ask them to read this Web page and explain anything you don't understand.
Thank you for being kind to animals!
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