Chrissie Hynde had written the zoo director, questioning the treatment of animals at its family-farm exhibit.
Live concert, or livestock?
A Minnesota Zoo concert featuring the Pretenders is being moved after its frontwoman, Chrissie Hynde -- an outspoken animal-rights advocate involved with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- wrote the zoo a letter expressing dismay over its Family Farm exhibit.
"How can a zoo invite children to touch and play with and express joy over animals for their uniqueness, only to turn around and sell those very animals to slaughter?" Hynde wrote zoo director Lee Ehmke on Friday. She told Ehmke that she planned to talk about the issue on stage during the concert.
PETA's Dan Mathews, who was forwarded e-mail communications between Hynde's manager and the concert promoter, claims that the zoo canceled the Aug. 19 show. Minneapolis promoter Sue McLean and zoo spokeswoman Kelly Lessard characterized the move as a mutual agreement with the band that has more to do with other factors, including high ticket demand, the size of the show -- which includes two warm-up acts -- and the zoo's 10:30 p.m. curfew.
The concert -- which at $68 a ticket would have been the priciest zoo show ever -- is being moved, possibly to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, McLean said. The Orpheum seats 2,600, about 1,100 more than the zoo's outdoor Weesner Amphitheater.
The zoo spokeswoman said that Ehmke was aware of the letter, but has not responded because he is traveling.
Goats, sheep, calves and pigs from the Family Farm exhibit are sold at livestock auctions at the end of each summer season, just as they would be on a regular farm.
The exhibit's intent is to portray a working farm, Lessard said, and it includes graphics explaining the animal production process. "We've never hidden our mission," she said.
Minnesotans who grew up in the country may wonder what the fuss is all about. "Having the family farm at the zoo is very important culturally for Minnesota," said Mandi Goplen, who recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural industries and marketing, and grew up on a dairy farm near Rochester. "This state has such a strong ag sector. Sometimes people from the metro area don't appreciate that."
She sees an understanding gap: "These are market animals, and we take really good care of them. For us it's not so much about making a product as taking care of animals who take care of us in the end."
Hynde was not available for comment Wednesday. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has often joined in protests -- and been arrested several times -- at McDonald's, Gap and other chains that sell animal products. She once wore a T-shirt that said "Tax Meat" while playing the annual Farm Aid benefit concert.
The Pretenders show, which also includes singer/songwriter Cat Power and actress-turned-rocker Juliette Lewis, continued to be listed on the zoo's website Wednesday, as is policy until a firm alternative has been arranged.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046