Not All Zoos Are Inhumane MAG

September 6, 2008
By Maribeth Flowers, Brecksville, OH

This piece is a response to “The Modern Zoo” from the May 2008 issue of Teen Ink. I volunteer at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and have gotten to know its keepers, veterinary staff, and other workers. According to the writer of “The Modern Zoo,” staff torture animals, do not provide adequate living space, and keep the animals merely to entertain. In my three years of volunteering, I have never seen, nor had any reason to suspect, any foul play at my zoo. The allegations in “The Modern Zoo” that all zoos are inhumane and cruel is false, I believe.

According to the article in Teen Ink, “Zoos claim to educate visitors. Yet we’ve all seen the one-sentence signs that describe monkeys. What can be learned from this? Certainly not enough to justify ­inhumane captivity.” One-sentence signs are not the end of zoos’ efforts to educate. At my zoo an entire department is devoted to educating the public about conservation of animals and our planet. If zoos didn’t care about education, why would they have this? While exhibits may display signs with brief information, staff work daily at the zoo to educate visitors about conservation and other critical topics.

Some zoo employees visit schools and businesses to educate the public about how to be more responsible with our environment. This department even organizes conservation projects around Ohio, such as the community effort to remove waste from Big Creek. Volunteers spent a day restoring the creek to a more healthy ecosystem. The zoo is also part of a ­national conservation campaign called Year of the Frog, dedicated to saving ­amphibian species from extinction. Zoos put forth tremendous effort to educate people, and to say that they do not is just not true in my experience.

“Zoo animals endure inadequate living conditions with no space,” claims the ­article. It’s not fair to make this generalization. My own zoo, for example, is planning a one-of-a-kind, spacious ­exhibit for its elephants. The exhibit ­encompasses many acres, and will be large enough to support a breeding population. If zoos didn’t care about adequate space for their animals, why would they waste time raising millions of dollars to build this type of exhibit? Also, my zoo cares a lot for its animals; it houses the second oldest hippo in North America and its polar bears are twice the age of those in the wild.

I witnessed a life-saving surgery on a 13-year-old wolf. Veterinarians worked for two hours to save his life. Thirteen is very old for a wolf. Zoos do care for their animals, and do what they can to keep them strong and healthy.

“These animals are simply meant to ­entertain,” claims “The Modern Zoo.” That too is false. At the Cleveland Metro­parks Zoo, animals are never forced to do anything for the sake of visitors’ entertainment. We believe in positive animal/ ­human interaction. Zoo staff never force or coerce an animal due to this policy.

The author of “The Modern Zoo” is ­obviously very passionate in his opinion about zoos. I am also very passionate. I have not written this to personally attack him. Rather, I am simply stating facts. “The Modern Zoo” paints zoos as cruel, inhumane facilities, but it is both unfair and untrue to claim this about all of them. Many have state-of-the-art veterinary ­facilities and work hard to save endangered species.

I hope that readers will see that zoos seek to protect and save endangered species, as well as educate and encourage the public to do the same.



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This article has 72 comments.


on Jun. 12 2011 at 12:05 pm
EthnicMutt BRONZE, Chillicothe, Ohio
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
The animals at the zoos are not necessarily taken from the wild and then put in zoos.  Many of them are born in the zoos or donated from those who buy exotic pets and then realize they don't want them.  Zoos don't just send expeditions to go hunt down new animals.  

Lilliterra said...
on Apr. 7 2011 at 9:58 pm

Why is everyone saying that it is inhumane to keep animals in captivity? Look at it from the animal's point of veiw. Not yours. You are looking in through the fence/glass. You're thinking as if it was you. Well, animals don't think the same way as you.

To the animals it's just their home. It's not "captivity". They don't even know what "the wild" is. And I doubt they're missing much. They have everything they need: food, water, safety, shelter, space, a much better chance of being healthy than they would have in the wild, and a very good chance of getting a mate. What more could an animal want? Freedom? What's that? Animals don't desire freedom. They desire space. People desire freedom. As long as animals have enough space, they don't feel confined.

I feel that anyone who wants to make this argument, especially about animals that were born in captivity, must first go release their dog/cat/hamster/fish/guinea pig/rabbit/chinchilla into the wild.


Lilliterra said...
on Apr. 7 2011 at 9:41 pm

Well hang on a sec. I agree with the beginning of your post (Dart's post), but... for one, what's wrong with teaching animals tricks? Who here teaches their dog tricks? What's the difference? As long as it's not something dangerous, or they don't be mean like cracking a whip or something.

I do agree with your other point. Zoos are very educational. If I had only seen giraffes in picture books or on TV, they wouldn't exactly seem real, would they?

Although I don't quite understand your bias against nature films. Those are educational too, right? And there's no such thing as "invading" nature. I saw the show on how they made Planet Earth. These people are very discreet and don't disrupt the animals' lives. They often get their shots from very far away or travel very far or wait a long time to get their shots. Again, though, I don't know what you mean by "invading" nature. There's no such thing.


buffydog15 said...
on Apr. 7 2011 at 6:43 pm
buffydog15, Chicago, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.


















~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I agree with SocialCollision!! They are inhumane.

buffydog15 said...
on Apr. 7 2011 at 6:42 pm
buffydog15, Chicago, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.


















~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those are some good points and its good that the zookeepers take such great care of the animals, but that doesn't justify taking animals out of their natural habitat to a zoo where they cant learn to fend for themselves and where the habitat created is full of nonnative plants and is unfamiliar. No doubt the animals are scared when being moved as you might be if you moved many miles away from your home.

MetallixRose said...
on Feb. 22 2011 at 3:07 pm
I totally agree with this aritcle. At the zoo by us, it's a really nice place.

Dart said...
on Feb. 20 2011 at 2:31 pm

I completely agree with this article - thank you for writing it! I am also a zoo volunteer, and I can sympathize.


There are bad zoos. Cruel, inhumane ones. Usually, those are more along the lines of circuses.  I just don't understand how so many people can be blatantly anti-Zoo, when the people who do work at (good) zoos have spent so many years studying animals, know more about animals, and care more about animals than them. It's like saying an astronaut hates and knows nothing about space! It's absurd and disrespectful.


Dart said...
on Feb. 20 2011 at 2:24 pm

Those are not facts.

Now, there are bad zoos. I'm not talking about those. Those are akin to circuses and should be eliminated. A good zoo's goal is to educate the public and breed animals. Grouping those in with bad zoos is insulting and disrespectful.

Many animals were born in captivity, many were injured in the wild and were rescued from certain death. Few animals are taken from the wild anymore, and they shouldn't be, unless they are hurt. That is something that should be stopped, I agree. And it is cruel to put animals in cages or small enclosures, and that should be put to a stop, just like making animals perform tricks should be. But many zoos spend millions of dollars building expansive habitats, have scientists who have studied animals and animal behavior for years working on developing the ecosystem perfectly. Animals are the center of the world for these people, and you accuse them of only doing it for profit?

Zoos - once again, good zoos - are commercialized to educate the public, and that is all. How else would people learn? If there are no zoos for people to see animals up close, for them to learn about them and learn about environmental problems, how will they ever feel empathetic toward them? I don't know about you, but I'd much rather there be zoos with captive-born animals and keepers who care for them there to teach people than documentaries or shows on TV where people directly invade nature to film animals.


on Nov. 7 2010 at 9:30 am
jessenielsen BRONZE, Candler, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"other men said they have seen angels, but i have seen thee, and thou art enough"- g. moore

so what your saying is, we should ulter the course of nature? there are many places in africa that provide safety for animals that are getting killed off by hunters. zoos are not the salvation of poor indangered animals, its just a place for the public and there entertainment. not saying that the keepers dont care about their animals, just stating facts. there are enough protectd areas in africa were these animals can still be animals. when you cage, or fence in anything, how is that kind? how is that right?

on Nov. 4 2010 at 9:17 pm
OliverKent GOLD, Georgetown, Ohio
19 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it." - Lewis Carroll
"...there it is [the moral]." - The Things They Carried pg. 13

If I may interject, jessenielsen and boston418, you are both very correct with your opinions. Animals in the wild are in their true element but I believe properly treated animals in captivity are in that exact same element. It is all in the cicumstance; a normal, hard-working and sincerely caring zoo's animals will be completely content. An animal in the wild must create a rather large niche for itself with a place for clean water, a place for food, a safe place to rest and raise offspring that is free of other oppising animals, within a zoo that is all within an adequately sized habitatualy adapted space. Water is close to food which is in turn a safe predator-free space; whereas a feral animal may have to travel a rather large distance back and forth daily for these things with no assurance that a predator is close by. And as another point the author brought up, captivity sometimes means survival, Polar Bears, the American and Mexican wolf packs, Cheetahs, Panda Bears to name a few aren't doing so well in the wild due to poaching, habit loss, over-hunting and climate change. It is with great regret that these animals cannot be out in the wild like they are meant to be but these zoos are some of the few ways that we can save them. And, yes some zoos are disgracefully and disgustingly treating their animals poorly, but not all of them, I would like to say not even 1% of them. Circuses however, with their tiger-hoop tricks and dancing bears are another story.

on Nov. 4 2010 at 8:35 pm
jessenielsen BRONZE, Candler, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"other men said they have seen angels, but i have seen thee, and thou art enough"- g. moore

i will have to disagree... a zoo is still a zoo, you are sugesting that second generation animals do not have the instincts of first generation animals. an animal has certain characteristics that dont change over such short periods of time. your reasoning is flawed my friend, a zoos condition may improve but does not change the fact that they are still in captivity. if a zoos only intention was to help the animals they wouldnt make it so commercial. you dont see hundreds of people spending there days on a nice little outing to an animal shelter. i am not sure, but i assume that you have never been to africa. once you have been there and seen animals in there element, things change. you see boston418, i dont know you, and im not trying to prove that your wrong. i just want you to really think about what i just wrote. if you are a prideful man, or women, i can understand that, but there is always an answer. maybe niether of us have it right. my logic is based on ethics, and enviromental bias do to my years deep the heart of the wilderness.

TheJust ELITE said...
on Nov. 4 2010 at 5:29 pm
TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
254 articles 202 photos 945 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I feel that a hero is somebody who will stand up for their values and what they believe in and that can take any form. People that have values and have thought them through rather than those who just do what they’re told."-Skandar Keynes

"When it’

Plus have you ever seen animals in the zoo? most of them laze around or flirt with the tourists. They LOVE it! At Busch Gardens in Tampa, there is an Australian exhibit where the kangaroos and walabys are allowed to run wild and they love the attention they're given from the people.

And most animals in zoos (unless they're brought in due to injury) are bred in captivity, which means they don't know any different and it would be inhumane to release these animals into the wild because they wouldn't know how to survive and would die.

Great article! I completely agree with you!! :D Well written also!


on Nov. 4 2010 at 12:03 pm
boston418 SILVER, Weymouth, Massachusetts
5 articles 0 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." -Jim Eliot

Yes, animals were originally removed from Kenya and other parts of Africa and placed in American zoos for entertainment.  That's pretty much indisputable.  However, that was years ago.  The animals in zoos today are not first-generation zoo-dwellers.  While the motives behind starting zoos may not have had the best interests of the animals in mind, it's not fair to assume this same intent for modern day zookeepers.  I think that times have changed for zoos.  They are certainly not what they were 75 years ago, which I think shows an evolving concern for animal welfare.  I agree with the author.

on Oct. 13 2010 at 6:48 pm
jessenielsen BRONZE, Candler, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"other men said they have seen angels, but i have seen thee, and thou art enough"- g. moore

I was raised in Kenya (east Africa) and have seen my fair share of zoos. the only point of a zoo is to profit and provide entertainment. if you disagree with this, you may ask "how did those animals end up thousands of miles away from there natural habitat?" Africa has its parks and has many orfinages for the young animals that are unable to survive on there own in the wild. there is no reason rather then for entertainment purposes to have zoos. How ever you may take this comment, the facts remain.

on Oct. 13 2010 at 6:48 pm
jessenielsen BRONZE, Candler, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"other men said they have seen angels, but i have seen thee, and thou art enough"- g. moore

I was raised in Kenya (east Africa) and have seen my fair share of zoos. the only point of a zoo is to profit and provide entertainment. if you disagree with this, you may ask "how did those animals end up thousands of miles away from there natural habitat?" Africa has its parks and has many orfinages for the young animals that are unable to survive on there own in the wild. there is no reason rather then for entertainment purposes to have zoos. How ever you may take this comment, the facts remain.

on Sep. 21 2010 at 12:38 am
tomtamtimmy GOLD, Sydney, Other
17 articles 0 photos 49 comments

Favorite Quote:
you don't know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have

i agree with hazydreamsbroken. most of the time its orphaned animals. or animals that seemed to be alone or in immedate danger.

on Sep. 3 2010 at 1:46 pm
Writer24 SILVER, Acton, Massachusetts
5 articles 0 photos 41 comments
This is a very well written and informative article. I wonder though, the person who wrote the first article, if they had stated that most zoos rather than all, if incase yours a rare kinder zoo. I don't know for myself at all, I'm just wondering if this other person's article, if they had been more careful not to use words such as "all" if they point would have held true.

Wanttodelete said...
on Aug. 30 2010 at 12:53 pm
Wanttodelete, London, Other
0 articles 0 photos 11 comments

grasslova, look up anarcho-primitivism, I think it might interest you. ;]

My opinion: Some people are cruel. Some of these people work at zoos. Some people care. They also work at zoos. Some zoos as a whole can be cruel, and some intend to be kind to the animals in their care.

I understand that, and so on physical level, zoos more often than not (as people are, more often that not kind as opposed to cruel) do not harm animals, and all levels, do not seek to harm animals.

However, I don't think this physical aspect should be argued along with the conceptual one. It confuses things.

I do believe that the concept of zoos is wrong. Keeping animals locked up is not right, true. I'm very against it. 

However, the same can be said of the way we as humans live today (technology, large societies, etc), and whether living this way is harmful to us, going against our natures. Perhaps, but living just doesn't work on a philosophical plane, you live in the day to day world and all that REALLY matters in life is whether or not you are happy. And if you are, or you will be, does it really matter whether or not we are in tune with nature? (That's not an argument against improvement, but against completely destroying our current lifestyle in order to start again better. It's not urgent, change can happen gradually and there's no point and no benefit to getting worked up about it.)

I personally boycott zoos, not because I believe the workers in general (I know there are exceptions) treat the animals inhumanely, but because I disagree with the idea behind them. However, I will not go around making blanket statements about all people who work in zoos and going on long, misanthropic rants because a) it's not true and b) it just isn't going to help and c) because the animals often AREN'T harmed, it's not totally urgent that the change from having to not having zoos happens suddenly. It is apparent from studies that zoo-life is not beneficial to animals in a nonphysical, non-immediate survival way. Like the way we get depression when we are unstimulated and deprived of the sort of life we were born for. 

It's coming to light just how smart, just how similar animals are to humans, and I ask, how do WE do in cages? 

It's not happy. That's my argument.

But I'm against zoos, not zoo workers.


on Aug. 30 2010 at 12:30 pm
WeetzieBat PLATINUM, Dallas, Texas
35 articles 1 photo 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
"OW! Stop pulling my ear! THIS TIME I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING!!!"

So you want to leave injured animals that can be saved in the zoo to die? I understand your views, but I also think you need to get off your closed minded track, and look at the GOOD zoos do for YOUNG ABANDONED animals, and INJURED animals that would never survive in the wild.

on Aug. 8 2010 at 8:32 pm
guineapig324 BRONZE, Bow, New Hampshire
2 articles 2 photos 4 comments
Life of Pi is a great book, especially if you like animals! And most zoo animals are bred in zoos, not taken out of the wild "against their will". Besides, animals do not think of this as a loss of freedom, but rather a means of easily obtained food, shelter, and protection! 


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