Shutting Down Zoos

March 14, 2013
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As a small child you walk through the gates; you struggle to see over the crowds of people. You've been waiting for this moment since you got into your car and left home. You've been picturing everything you’ll get to see, do, and experience. You’re so excited you get impatient when your family stops for a bathroom break. It’s time. You sprint to the first exhibit only stopping because your mom screams at you to get back. When you walk up to it your eyes go wide and your mouth drops. You are in awe. After the shock of what you’ve just seen passes you want to move ahead to the next exhibit. Again your parents make you wait. You eagerly try to peer over swarming crowds to get a glance at the other exhibits. Finally your parents let you move on to see something else. The next exhibit is spectacular. It is huge. It has teeth the size of your face. Its body shines gold and its head is covered with a thick coat of hair. It roars. It is the loudest thing you have ever heard. You are scared. Luckily it stops. It seems to have calmed down rather quickly. Thank goodness. After two hours of being amazed your family has had enough. You haven’t seen the whole park but you are all ready to go home. You were at a zoo.

This slightly exaggerated example depicts what many experienced as a child. It depicts how the big businesses fooled you into believing that the animals you were so amazed by were happy, safe, and cared for. The zoo never explained that the cages the animals were in were not the same as their natural habitats. As a result, many children were raised with the belief that zoos are identical or better than natural habitats. By doing this zoos convince children that keeping animals in cages is good. Maybe we should stop calling them zoos and start calling them camps. This is what they are. They are camps that capture and hold animals. The world claims to think of animals as equals. I disagree. How does the imprisonment of animals reflect an idea of equality? I believe zoos should be shut down because they are internment camps that neglect animals and inflict a bad message on children.

Zoos harm animals. According to a Washington Post article, Meghan Mogensen, director of the Reston Zoo in Virginia has been convicted of drowning an injured Wallaby. The curator of the zoo explained to the court that she was ordered to get food for animals at the zoo and when she came back she found a bucket of water next to an opened Wallaby cage as well as a dead wallaby in a trash bag in the dumpster. Wallabies look like kangaroos and are about the same size as a big dog. Can you imagine if something like this happened to your dog? What would you do? What should we do? Animal abuse occurs frequently and ubiquitously. One of the biggest areas of animal abuse in zoos around the world is China. According to a Huffington Post article, 11 rare Siberian Tigers died in Early 2010 in a Chinese Wildlife Park because the zoo couldn’t afford to supply the tigers with proper food and care. This is ridiculous, hypocritical, and evil. Why wouldn’t the staff at the park ask for help from other zoos or animal organizations? I don’t think PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also one of the biggest animal rights organizations in the world) would have a problem giving money to put tigers in a safe area like a reserve. How can the world attempt to care for endangered animals when there are rare animals dying of starvation in zoos? How can we allow zoos to exist when they are hurting so many animals? A study done by Georgia J. Mason of the animal sciences department at the University of Guelph, Canada shows that the median lifespan for African elephants in European zoos is 16.9 years, compared with 56 years for elephants who die of natural causes in Kenya's Amboseli park. Elephants in European zoos live almost thirty years less than elephants in the wild. Zoos harm the very animals they have sworn to protect and care for.

The damage zoos inflict on their animals isn’t just physical. The stresses of confinement and constant attention put a psychological toll on animals. A Huffington Post article describes and shows pictures of visitors at a China zoo throwing snowballs at lions. Helpless lions contained in a cold, outdoor exhibit were hit with snowballs. Regardless of the amount of physical damage the snowballs may have inflicted on the lions, the psychological effects of being hit with snowballs by groups of people without being able to defend yourself or stop it cannot be denied. How do you think the lions at the Chinese Zoo felt? Frustrated? Acts like these can often put animals in zoos into a state known as zoochosis. Zoochosis is an unofficial term that describes the depressed behavior and related physical actions of animals who are kept in confinement. A study done by the Department of Psychology at the International Islamic University in Malaysia at the Malaysian National Zoo, Kuala Lumpur, reveals that animals, especially large animals such as giraffes and elephants, show signs of zoochosis or extreme depression when kept in captivity. The study described that elephants seemed bored and uninterested and giraffes paced frantically in their cages as a result of a lack of entertainment and crowded cages. Can we question animal attacks in zoos when the animals that attack have been taken from their natural homes, harmed, and frustrated? A corporation that hurts animals has no place in this world. Animal abuse has no place in this world. At a certain point we must realize that zoos are wrong. Wrong to people who see the animals caged and humiliated, and wrong to the animals who are caged and humiliated.

Zoos not only harm animals, but also harm children. When a child goes to the zoo, any action or scene they see sticks in their brain. A New York Times article reports a study done by a safety campaign that released seat-belt use studies in 10 different states. The study showed that more than eighty percent of children were buckled in when the adults used their seat belts but when parents were not buckled up, the amount of children who used their seat belts ranged from eleven percent to fifty six percent. What children see is directly related to what they do. It’s like when someone swears around a small child and then that child keeps repeating the word. If a child sees something bad in a zoo it will stick with them. Take the example of the visitors at the Chinese zoo who were throwing snowballs at the lions. In the pictures that were released of the event, you can see the visitors smiling as they throw snowballs at the lions. You can also see the lions with their eyes closed and heads down, much like a scared dog. If a child sees that, they’ll think it’s okay. They’ll join in and start pelting the poor defenseless animals with snowballs because they’ve seen others do it and that makes them think it’s alright. It’s not a matter of how the child was raised because a young child learns from what they see. Zoos aren't safe places for anyone. If a child sees a zoo worker mistreat an animal by hitting it, the child might think it’s alright. The child may then grow up with the idea that hitting animals is okay. Would you want your child getting such ideas into their head? To actually teach a child how animals act in the wild the child must actually experience the animals in the wild. In the wild they won’t get any ideas about mistreating animals because everything the child sees in the wild will be natural. Zoos don’t help children. How can a steel cage with a cold metal floor decorated with hay, plants, and “play toys” help a child? Zoos don’t teach children. Most zoos do have educational programs for children where they talk about the animals and their natural habitats. How can you teach something without the actual material being present? A child won’t understand that a cheetah can run up to seventy miles per hour if they hear it in a zoo. A child won’t understand that a cheetah’s spine stretches as it runs, adding up to thirty inches to its stride if they hear it in a zoo. A child won’t understand any of this when it is told to them in a zoo because they won’t actually be able to see what they are hearing. It all comes down to how children learn. Children learn with their eyes. This is why classrooms in elementary schools are filled with color and books with pictures that pop out. Young children can’t talk or understand very well so they learn from what they see. In order to learn, children have to be able to connect the ideas they hear with the ideas they see and this process cannot happen properly in zoos because all children see in zoos are depressed animals living in fake habitats. Therefore, zoos are not safe for children because zoos negatively impact children socially and intellectually.

Supporters of Zoos claim that zoos save endangered animals and teach visitors. Many endangered species, such as the Sumatran Rhino, are killed for their horns or body parts. Why aren't endangered species put on wildlife reservations where they won’t be hunted? Is it better for animals to be put in captivity and forced to breed than to live and breed freely? Is it safe for endangered species to be in captivity? Zoos are not meant to care for animals, especially endangered animals. When eleven rare Siberian tigers die of starvation it is not only sad but also detrimental to the Siberian tiger population. Endangered species are just a way for zoos to get animals that will bring in customers. Endangered species like the Giant Panda bring in thousands of visitors into zoos. Zoos don’t care about the endangered animals. Zoos see endangered animals as opportunities to make more money. Zoo supporters also claim that zoos teach visitors. With most zoos having educational programs, zoos do provide opportunities to learn about animals but this only means that zoo workers will tell you facts about the animals in the wild. You won’t actually be able to see how the animals act in the wild and you won’t actually be able to see any of the knowledge you are told. Therefore, you are far better off going to actually see the animals in the wild on a tour, safari, or the woods or at least watching an educational program about animals where you will be able to see the animals in the wild and where the animals are in less danger. Zoos hurt endangered species and hinder the ability of visitors to learn about the animals. Without zoos, animals and people would be better off.

Zoos should be shut down. It’s simple. Animals in zoos should be released into the wild and endangered animals should be put on reservations where they will not be hunted. With zoos gone, animals like the wallaby at the Reston can live a long, natural life. With more animals in the wild, people will have more opportunities to actually see and experience animals in their natural habitats. People will be able to see how animals actually act. With zoos shut down, animals will be safer and happier, and people will be able to experience animals as they truly are, free in the wild. It is up to us to save animals in captivity. To stop the meaningless killing of thousands of animals in zoos, we must push to shut down zoos. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of petitions to shut down zoos across the world. I encourage you to sign as many petitions as you can and to fight to stop zoos so that animals can be free and happy. Fighting to shut down zoos will help animals and people and it is up to you and me and everyone who has ever been to a zoo to stop them.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

kittypug said...
today at 1:59 pm
very long but very good.
Oct. 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm
Could you reference me to your sources? I'm writing a persuasive piece about zoos and how they treat their animals for a school assessment and I think your sources will come in handy. Thankyou! :)
tbon said...
Oct. 3, 2013 at 4:46 pm
While I like the way you write, i do not like this article. You overgeneralized zoos as if something that happens in a zoo in China is equivalent to the expert care we have in our American zoos. I go to the zoo at least 5 times a year, but i have never seen an animal be mistreated. If an animal is sick, they dont even put it out in its display to give it rest. If you had added some good things about zoos, I would have liked it better. Persuauion is stating BOTH sides and proving that yours is right.
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