Not All Zoos Are Inhumane This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 6, 2008
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.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 72 comments. Post your own now!

Stina said...
Dec. 31, 2009 at 5:34 am
I agree with you that not all zoos are inhumane and many of the poeple that work for them are simply trying to help animals. I think its great that they save and take care of injured animals... but, animals are simply not meant to live in cages their whole life, have their food "hunted" for them and live a life that goes against their natural instincts. It makes me angry when I am in a pet store and the staff say how they "love" animals so much... if you loved animals, why w... (more »)
LoveOfWords replied...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 7:11 am
Actually, fish have longer memory spans than that, but I agree with your general point.
Kelz1141 said...
Oct. 26, 2009 at 2:33 pm
This article was very well written and I do agree that not all zoos are inhumane. But this article also made me feel you didn't take the the article you read sierously and actualy consider the point they were trying to make. It sounded like you were to conserned with the fact that you disagreed to truely understand what point the other writer was trying to make.
This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 26, 2009 at 9:29 am
Great article. You represent the facts very well and I agree with you. Granted, there are some zoos that are inhumane, but in the ones I've been to, the animals all seem happy.
kittykat1234 said...
Feb. 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm
I really want to go see your zoo. It sounds amazing! Also, I agree with SloopyMcCoy. The Life of Pi has a really good part where it explains why zoos are good. It totally convinced me.
monkeywalrus said...
Jan. 27, 2009 at 6:13 pm
I think that both sides of this arguement have a point, but you both took your views out of proportion with your subjects. You guys were far too cheeky!!!
blahblahblah said...
Jan. 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm
I do not think your title fit your main point. You were writing mainly about how the magazine, "Modern Zoo" is wrong.
sallysunshine27 said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 4:06 pm
i love life of pi!
SloopyMcCoy said...
Dec. 16, 2008 at 12:57 am
You should totally and compleatly read 'the life of pi!' it is an amazing book. before reading it I had a negative view on zoos and then the author made some important comments and i compleatly changed my mind. READ IT!
beelem12 said...
Dec. 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm
I really appreciate your artical. You seem very passionate about not only if zoo's are cruel to their animals, but also about what you believe in (I really think that's important!) I agree with everything you state in this article. Don't let stereotypes like what the man who wrote "The Modern Zoo" bother you or put you down. Just reading your article I can easily assume that you know what your talking about and that is a very good trait and it shows awesome character! Keep at it and ne... (more »)
speed is everything said...
Dec. 4, 2008 at 6:43 pm
i thought this was very intertaining and i thought is was a great article
ZooCrew2010 said...
Sept. 22, 2008 at 11:17 pm
Thanks so much, Maribeth, for writing this! If all zoos are like Cleveland Metroparks we can prove the "Modern Zoo" stereotype wrong.
VoodooVegetarian said...
Sept. 17, 2008 at 11:31 pm
You go MaryBeth, I agree 100% with everything you said. If ours zoo didn't care why would they put forth the effort. I can honestly say through teaching others I have learned quite a bit more myself. I think it's wrong that people make assumptions and steriotype what they don't understand because of the actions of certain individuals within said groups. Stand up and speek the truth, don't be biased by ignorance and societal assumptions, GO MARYBETH!!
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