Zoo Ethics

March 5, 2012
Everyone has been to a zoo and seen the animals. Some zoos may look nice, but the animals see the same monotony everyday, endless lines of unfamiliar human faces. Living in a zoo is a prison, a life behind bars, for a crime the animals didn’t commit. Not only is this treatment of animals cruel, it is disrespectful. And if zoos do good such as repopulating species, why are only 2% involved in breeding programs? Zoos cause more harm to animals than good.

Animals needs are not met at zoos. Less than 15% of zoos even meet the qualification standards. Even then, the standards are not enough to provide the quality of life animals deserve. Captivity can lead to self mutilation and scientists say many zoo animals show the symptoms of loneliness and depression. For example, some animals who need companionship, like penguins, are often put in solitary cages, while other animals such as polar bears are grouped together. Many times, wolf exhibits have very unstable packs due to factors such as too many males, or being too large. A study showed that captive lions spend up to 48% of their time pacing around their cages. Another study of zoos revealed that lions along with other big cats have 18,000 times less space in zoos than in the wild, and that figure rises to one million times less space for the captive polar bears. Zoos do not care about the animals’ welfare, they are there to make money. Did you know it is legal for zoos to euthanize animals because of overcrowding? Animals are placed in habitats that are not suited for their abilities. The animals’ cages are designed for the visibility of customers not for the animals’ comfort, which causes more aggravation among animals. . This is not a healthy environment.

Of course, there are some efforts to repopulate and return animals to their habitats. However, the life of being taken care of in zoos, and having unlimited supplies of food cause animals to lose natural instincts and immunity to diseases they would need to properly function in the wild. An experiment to release some tigers back into the wild resulted in only three out of twelve entering successfully, two of whom who already had experience in the wild. And breeding is a painfully slow process due to the all the factors that have to be considered such as inbreeding. Transporting the animals to other zoos for breeding is a very rigorous and expensive task. A task which not many zoos and breeding programs are willing to deal with, also a task the provides much unwanted stress to the animals. Many zoos even capture their animals from the wild, such as in Europe up to 70% of all elephants were taken from their natural habitat. Therefore, zoos are doing the opposite of repopulating species. Creating an animal that is unable to function in the wild, or taking animals from their original homes are causing more harm to these endangered animals.

Zoos are in no way a good idea to keep animals in containment. It results in psychological problems as well as physical to the animals’ health. Zoos are inhumane, cruel, and beyond unfair. Animals cannot speak, they cannot tell people they are unhappy, but all of the studies indicate that the captive animals are suffering, and suffering greatly. Simple actions such as donating a small amount of money to programs that are against cruelty in zoos, or rehabilitation programs is the first step in the right direction. Animals deserve the right to pursue happiness as much as humans, and no one should take that away.

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