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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 72 comments. Post your own now!

SocialCollision said...
Jun. 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm
okay. Here's what makes me mad. Lots of people say that NOT ALL ZOOS ARE INHUMANE. That's not true, It's inhumane to keep an animal against it's will. If an animal was born into the wild and taken into captivity, THAT is inhumane. Yes zoos have the means to take care of an animal, but to take the out of the wild to breed them? ABSURD! ALL ZOOS ARE INHUMANE.
HazyDreamsBroken replied...
Aug. 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm
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.
Zora. replied...
Aug. 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm

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 animal... (more »)

BlueberryPoptartHasAnAmazinglyLongScreenname said...
Jun. 25, 2010 at 8:02 am
But it's the whole concept for me. It just is disturbing to me that people feel they have such athority, and take animals into conditions that couldn't possibly replicate those in the wild. You bring up age as a measure of care. I disagree years liveed is equivelent to quality of life. Death isn't a bad thing. It's the natural end, and if you push and push and medicate and perform so many sugerys are you just cuasing animals unneeded pain and sufffering in the name of humans wanting to watch wol... (more »)
Steph0804 replied...
Aug. 17, 2011 at 9:46 am
I agree with you. This idea that some of us humans have that we have total control over animals' lives is false. However, sometimes, if the animal is injured, orphaned, or dying, I think it's better to take them into our care (but I think it would only be fair to release them back to where they came from).
Jane_P This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm
Has anyone seen San Diego zoo? They have recreated the animal's natural habitats, and take such excellent care of them. Many of the animals are happier and healthier than they are in the wild.
skywitch said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Not all zoos are bad, but some are, I guess that when you really look at it its party on how much money the zoo has.

I went to Disney World two years ago and was pleasantly surprised at how well the animals were treated. They had large enclosures (notice how I didn't say cages) and some of them were even able to interact with other animals.

I believe that people have come along way in how we treat their animals. In school I learned that the first elephant that came to America wa... (more »)

JBfan4ever This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 6:31 am
This is a great review. You have really  strong evidence and you took the article and broke it into pieces and gave certain evidence to that thing exactly. This is great writing and an excellent review.
AprilBlue said...
May 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

You totally pwned whoever it was that wrote that last artice. 


SassyJones said...
May 12, 2010 at 6:28 pm
great article. How do i apply to  get a job at a zoo? 
krazykathleen said...
May 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm
I completely agree with this! Great counter argument and well written article!!
X_Dysfuntional_Lyrics_X said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 9:53 am
I love this article! You are right about the Cleveland Zoo. I love it and actually just filled out an application to work/volenteer there. I love our zoo and all the animals. I cant wait for the elephant exhibit to open up and for the elephants to come back. Our zoo does care about the animals. The signs we have at the Cleveland Zoo do not just have one line telling you about the animal. It shows a map of where the animal lives in the wild and gives a little paragraph about it. My one grandmothe... (more »)
Gradschoolgrl said...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 12:10 pm
You do a really nice job bringing in your own experience volunteering at a zoo so as to bring counter evidence to the article that appeared in the May 2008 issue of Teen Ink. I wonder if it might make your argument stronger if you acknowledged why some might hold this view. What should be done to eliminate inhumane zoos? How might that help humane zoos to flourish?
Holly M. said...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 5:37 am
Some zoo's are better than others. Let's face it. Some keep polar bears when they should be hunting in snow, some keep wolves even though they are pacing around their enclosure (completely bored!) and some should be shut down becasue the animals have such a bad life. But other zoo's are good. They treat their animals with love and consideration. They have bigger cages. They keep animals that could become extinct.
Zoo's are good and bad. The world has "good" ... (more »)
jakie replied...
Apr. 16, 2010 at 8:50 am
first of all zoos are all bad. you say that some zoos have bigger cages but still there in cages its nothing like there real enviroment.
Tenwyg replied...
Aug. 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I keep reading 'zoos are bad because they lock animals up'. Okay fine. But let me say something.

1) Most of the animals in zoos nowadays are in the zoo specifically for their protection. To save them from extinction, or if they are to injured to function properly in 'the wild'. The other animals are there because they were bred there. 

2) All you people who still insist that the only point of a zoo is to entertain people need to poen your eyes. And go to a zoo. The purpose ... (more »)

Bamm222 said...
Feb. 11, 2010 at 9:13 am
i dont agree maybe some zoos treat there animals nicely but if you think the had to be inhuman to get there and moving them and just keeping them in there habitat in the zoo so they are ALL INHUMAN!!
LoveOfWords replied...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 7:10 am
Living in a habitat that's not natural (by that I mean a zoo incloseure instead of the wild) doesn't mean that the animals are being treated inhumanely. So long as adequate space and the right kinds of conditions are provided, it's perfectly acceptable. Sometimes even better than in the wild. For example, sometimes dolphins will be hurt by boats or fishing nets or other animals. That doesn't happen in zoos, and they're an excellent tool for conservation.
Zoos can ... (more »)
AnneOnnimous replied...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 5:16 pm
i have to agree with you there, loveofwords. As long as the animals are being treated well, zoos are an excellent concept; they teach the public about animals that most would probably never see otherwise. And it's not like animals in the wild are better off than animals in zoos; zoo animals are guaranteed to get food, whereas animals in the wild must fend for themselves and deal with nature, plus the damage humans are causing ot the earth. Even maltreated zoo animals are probably better off than... (more »)
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 »)
crawfordkid This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 31, 2009 at 9:50 pm
I don't mean to seem rude, and please forgive me if I do. But it would seem logical to believe that, considering the average memory span for a fish is three to five seconds, most tank-dwelling fish would not aspire to live elsewhere, and those that did would soon forget. Just a thought.
Site Feedback