Flag day: Read the small-print before you give

(EDITED 20070831 for clarity – Singapore Zoo evil, ACRES good!)

You see them almost every weekend now, positioned round escalator landings, bus disembarkation bays, gathered around shopping centre entrances and lining the streets. The flag-day can bearers are out in force!

I would list out every way that I refute flag days now – not that all flag day recipients are suspect, you just have to be extra vigilant of where you drop your change.

Everything I want to say is covered more than aptly by Mr Joseph Lai‘s lament of contributing unwittingly to this slyly canvassed flag day can on 26 Aug:

I also encountered this well-camoflaged green can. It was suspect and it certainly wasn’t ACRESwildlife sanctuary that was doing a flag day there and then.

Actually I thought much the same as Mr Lai, except that I didn’t part with my paltry ration in the wallet because I managed to spot the small print before I did anything I might regret: “Singapore Zoo”.

Here is a zoo who is raking in millions of dollars every year – out of animals – and here I am… donating to a profit-driven business on Flag Day? Grrrh…

We were actually reaching for our coins already, btmao and I, thinking it was for for ACRES’ wildlife sanctuary, but we declined when I saw it was for the Singapore Zoo. (Flag Day Poser 2: How come private corporation Singapore Zoo gets funds from charity?)

My faith in flag day had already been crushed the day I read that up to 70% and more of the flag day’s collection goes to the middleman who organised the collection and supplied the cans and handled logistics. It is a lucrative agency. But Mr Lai helped grind it into the dust and ensure it will never be able to rear its dead-horse-flogged head ever:

You see… when donation is being canvassed from the public, especially in public places, the poor and ordinary actually donates in faith – not to the extending hand (the zoo, in this case) – but to the ‘character of trust’ as represented by our public charters and safeguards whose collective system of governance ensure fair and equitable distribution of funds to legitimate causes of the most urgent needs and to ensure no deserving bodies ever fall out of reach of the public’s helping hand. Common sense will obviously tell you that profit-driven businesses (or any of their subsidiaries) should have no place within this public system of trust to ask for any monetary help.

There is certainly a role them authorities have to play to weed out such heartstring exploitation.

… While we leave the fine-tuning of the processes to our legislators, public accountants or lawmakers, we ordinary people (who were made chimps by default) can use our chimp-intelligence to unravel irregularities staring in our foolish-monkey-faces!

Just take one hard look at the donation can; it is in itself overwhelmingly self-incriminating.

It says Wildlife Conservation Singapore Fund supported by: Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. Now, what would go through your mind when you read ‘supported by’?…

Meanwhile, it is our own responsibility to know just who we’re going our hard earned pennies to. By all means, drop the coins if it makes you happy, but don’t be blind. Remember NKF, or should I get with it and say old NKF.

If you bother to read the claimer [i.e. the B5-sized notice carried by every canvasser] you will quickly realized that the zoo is not the benefactor, but the beneficiary….

The Flag Day collections will be used to fund the following:

Support the scientific and technical studies on wildlife in their natural habitats, to conserve what precious little nature there is left in South East Asia.

Care for and propagate mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and other creatures, from all over the world within the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.

The words ‘supported by’ is therefore deceiving. The public would have been better served by alternative words such as ‘Benefited by’ or ‘Supporting’. In any case, such works should be supported by the profits the zoo makes and not with public funding.

If you think it is obnoxious enough for the zoo to ask us part our money to help ‘care for and propagate’ its enslaved animals so that it can earn more money (and charge us hefty entrance fees as well), try looking into the zoo’s filthily-endowed surpluses, for examples, FY 2004/05 ($13 million) and FY 2006/07 ($4.5 million). Now, is that OBNOXIOUS or not?

Never fear to be the problem child – ask and ask and ask again. WHAT is the flag day for?

You also should enquire about specific projects and costs when the zoo dispenses grandiloquence such as conserving ‘what precious little nature there is left in South East Asia’…. Inasmuch, countless local non-profit NGOs in these countries are doing great works with species and habitat conservation. They are the ones who need our direct donations and it is a matter for us to seek them out.

Still, the key is to be discerning, not disengaged.

There remains, however, many non-profit animal welfare organisations in Singapore (such as ACRES, SPCA and the Cat Welfare Society) who are worthy of our immediate help. If we have the money, why not donate to them? This, of course, should not divorce us of our concern and responsibility to the welfare of animals kept in the zoo. Perhaps, if the zoo comes clean about its expenditures for such things as upgrading and building of restuarants, entrances and offices, we chimps-by-default could help the zoo-people to channel the greater proportion of its own funds rightfully to the betterment of the enslaved animals. But first, we have to stop the zoo from screwing around with our public ‘character of trust’. Period.

Me, I rather donate directly. So, don’t lock your heart and purse, and throw away the key, but do try not to fall into the trap and throw your mind and money away.

(EDITED 20070831 for clarity – Singapore Zoo evil, ACRES good!)


One response to “Flag day: Read the small-print before you give

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