Children and adults like visiting zoos where they can meet different animals and birds and reconnect with nature. However, an increasing number of people raise concerns about whether keeping animals in zoos in justifiable. On the one hand, zoos help protect the endangered species and help researchers to learn them better. Zoo is also a wonderful place where people can look at exotic species at close range, learn about threats they face in the wild habitat, and possibly involve into their protection. On the other hand, capturing animals and denying them the opportunity to live in freedom is inhumane, unethical, and cruel. Many animals confined to zoos get ill and cannot breed (Riley, 2016). They lose their natural habits and skills that allow them to survive in the wilderness and may become depressed or dangerous. Given these disadvantages, I think that keeping animals in zoos is not justifiable.
I admit that zoos may have their advantages. To begin with, zoos are a safe place for endangered species that are being destroyed by the climate change, logging, and uncontrolled human activity. Some species like panda are now safe only because of effective conservation measures taken at zoos (Gulledge & Chan, 2016). The most reputable zoos operating according to the high standards contribute much to the conservation efforts. They can conduct research, raise money for conservation projects, educate the public, etc.
I also admit that for people living in large urban areas, zoos are one of few places where they can reconnect with nature and learn more about animals. People can bring their children there and tell them about the importance of preserving the environment and all living beings inhabiting it. Looking at animals from a close distance may encourage some visitors to donate money or participate in other conservation activities.
However, I think that zoos are not a perfect solution to animal protection. They were initially created to amuse people and despite the gradual shift towards conservation measures, zoos are still entertainment sites in the first place. This poses many ethical questions regarding animal welfare and moral obligations (Martin, Wilson, & Carpenter, 1992). Should people exploit animals for profit? Do animals suffer from being kept in captivity? Are there better ways to protect them? These and many other questions arise when one reflects on the role of zoos in the modern world. People manipulate animals’ behavior and genetics and are often placed in a position to make important decisions about feeding, placement, breeding, etc. They like to think that they know what is best for animals, but is it true? As far as I am concerned, people should not interfere in these processes in such a ruthless manner.
Evidence shows that animals suffer in captivity (PETA, 2017). Their habits and skills change irreversibly because they no longer need to seek ways to survive. Some of them can get ill, depressed, or dangerous and hurt other animals or people. They often live far away from their habitat and may suffer from unnatural climatic conditions. Besides, animals born in zoos do not have necessary skills to survive in the wild, so they have to stay in captivity.
I think that given these challenges and ethical concerns, people should seek better ways to protect animals. Today, some advanced zoos engage in rigorous research and commit to preserving habitats and species in the wild. They study animal biology to increase the effectiveness of conservation programs, which may help protect endangered species in the future. Some researchers even design programs to prepare animals to be able to release them into the wild. I am convinced that all zoos should follow this path of a gradual shift towards conservation in the natural habitat. Creating large conservation parks where animals could be free would eliminate ethical problems while simultaneously allowing people to look at animals in the wild. I am sure that this would be advantageous for both people and animals.
Gulledge, J., & Chan, J. (2016). Zoo Atlanta’s mission to help save pandas. CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/29/us/iyw-panda-conservation-zoo-atlanta/
Martin, H. D., Wilson, S. C., & Carpenter, J. W. (1992). Animal welfare and wildlife in captivity: A perspective on veterinary ethics and responsibilities. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 23(3), 273-275.
PETA. (2017). Zoos: Pitiful prisons. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/animals-used-entertainment-factsheets/zoos-pitiful-prisons/
Riley, A. (2016). Five wild animals that won’t do it in cages. New Scientist. Retrieved from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2077282-five-wild-animals-that-wont-do-it-in-cages/