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Zoos: animal sanctuaries or animal prisons?

19th May 2024 … talking about animals …

THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSION [number 12 in the series]


Zoos: animal sanctuaries or animal prisons?

Suggested by Gerry Boland, founder of and spokesperson for Animals Behind Closed Doors, advocating for appropriate rights for animals and for a vegan lifestyle (087-6397557)


RATIONALE

A zoo is a place where captive animals are put on display for humans to see. While early zoos concentrated on displaying as many unusual creatures as possible—often in small, cramped conditions—the focus of most modern zoos is conservation and education. While zoo advocates and conservationists argue that zoos save endangered species and educate the public, animal rights advocates believe the cost of confining animals outweighs the benefits, that the violation of the rights of individual animals—even in efforts to fend off extinction—cannot be justified.


THE MAIN ARGUMENTS FOR ZOOS

Zoos are essential to the ongoing efforts to conserve an ever-increasing number of threatened species, through their captive breeding programs and their maintenance of a healthy population of wild animals, far away from the dangers posed by habitat loss and by illegal poaching and hunting. Zoos also play an important role in educating a concerned and curious public.


Education - by bringing people and animals together, zoos educate the public and foster an appreciation of other species. Seeing the living animal is a more personal and memorable experience than seeing that

animal in a nature documentary and is more likely to foster an empathetic attitude toward animals.

Conservation – zoos save endangered species by bringing them into a safe environment, where they are protected from poachers, habitat loss, starvation, and predators. Many zoos have breeding programs for endangered species. In the wild, these individuals might have trouble finding mates and breeding, and species could become extinct. Some zoos have conservation programs around the world that use the zoo's expertise and funding to help protect wildlife against poaching and other threats.

Animal Welfare – a good zoo provides an enriched habitat in which the animals are never bored, are well cared for, and have plenty of space.


THE MAIN ARGUMENTS AGAINST ZOOS

Zoos are animal prisons. They exist under the pretence of education and of habitat conservation but in reality are privately-owned enterprises driven by the requirement to make a profit. They achieve this at the expense of the animals’ freedom and by persuading a gullible public to pay high entrance fees in order to see animals in confinement.

Animal Rights – as morally accountable and ethically responsible beings, we do not have the right to breed, capture, and confine other animals, even if those species are endangered.

Animal Welfare – animals in captivity suffer from boredom, stress, and confinement. Most zoos don’t have the space or the facilities to truly recreate the wild, and no pen or drive-through safari can compare to the freedom of the wild. Surplus animals are routinely sold not only to other zoos, but to circuses and hunting facilities. Some zoos simply kill their surplus animals outright.

Education – zoos teach people that animal captivity is acceptable. In fact, we can learn much more from watching nature and wildlife documentaries than we could possibly learn from a visit to a zoo, staring at static, bored animals behind wire fencing and in cages. If people want to see wild animals in real life, they can observe wildlife in the wild or visit a sanctuary. Nature reserves, bird watching, going on a safari: all of these options afford you a close view of nature exactly as it was intended.

Conservation – Even when the habitat was largely intact, zoos had a very poor record of successfully reintroducing animals back into the wild. Today, the habitat of wild animals has been dramatically diminished, leaving the chances of reintroduction extremely remote. Essentially, this means that zoos are keeping animals locked up – on ice, so to speak – with no hope of ever releasing them back into the wild. Equally problematic is the removal of individual specimens from the wild; the remaining individuals will be less genetically diverse and may have greater difficulty finding mates. Maintaining species diversity within captive breeding facilities is also a challenge. Many zoos are running breeding programs for their own benefit and have no interest in releasing their animals back into the wild.


I am happy to discuss this issue on air, also more than willing to debate with an industry representative.

Gerry Boland


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