The Problem With Zoos

Autumn Chase

There was no hope… Animals were continuing to go extinct faster than statistics could keep up with. This occurs from many different multiplex topics such as climate change, habitat destruction and mass hunting. Then came zoos. Raising the numbers again and replenishing species. They seemed perfect, keeping animals in safe, warm homes, protecting them from the dangers beyond the walls of the zoos, but there were some things that the visitors of these zoos were kept a blind eye towards. Looking through the ethical lens at this topic, research showed us that we are able to see the not necessarily wanted and most healthy circumstances that these animals were living in. This lens is the most important one to look at because it has to do with the safety and happiness of the animals. Zoos are responsible for the safe and loving conservation and protection of animals that are on the verge of extinction. This topic may not be the most controversial of topics, but that is why it is important to be informed on these situations going on within zoos. The bright lights, happy children, and nice workers may seem wonderful, but as we have always been told, don’t read a book by its cover because there is more than meets the eye.

If zoos are going to house animals, they have the responsibility of keeping them safe and healthy, physically and menally. Animals are like humans, they need food, water, company, and a space to live. If they are deprived of these necessities, survival can be atrocious. Zoos were created to help animals survive by providing the basic needs that they need to survive, and when that doesn’t occur, animals start having to fend for themselves and that is not what the purpose of zoos are for. Based off of multiple reliable sources, “zoos are like prisons and that zoos drive many animals crazy by confining them. If the animals don’t die of boredom, they snap and revert to their wild nature, they say. Anti-zoo activists talk about big cats endlessly pacing back and forth in their cages, zoo elephants constantly swaying side to side, polar bears swimming in endless circles, and monkeys and parrots “grooming” themselves until they have no fur or feathers left.”(Current Events) Animals go crazy in these types of hostile environments. It is worse for them than just being in the wild and having to fend for themselves because that is basically what they are doing in here. “Zoos provide animals with few opportunities to engage in natural behavior and little mental stimulation. In these artificial, restricted conditions, animals may have a mental breakdown and develop “zoochosis”–a form of psychosis that can cause them to sway or pace continually, chew on their own limbs until they bleed, or pull out their own fur or feathers. Some zoos dispense antidepressants and other drugs to curb such abnormal and self-destructive behavior.”(The New York Times Upfront) If the need of antidepressants are necessary for animals to live successfully, that should be a huge red flag right there. If zoos could give animals more open spaced living configurations then they would be looked at more positively and then animals would be much happier. It is unfair to have animals go through torture like this when zoos are getting praise for their “good deeds”. “Getting rid of zoos would be a tragedy for all animals,”(Current Events) due to the fact that they do conserve many different species but that doesn’t mean that these animals are happy and fulfilled. “The conditions have been absolutely horrendous”(Derry, Alex 36) and that is unfair and unethical. This affirms the statement that animals in zoos live in poor conditions. All lives matter is a statement that must include animals as well. If zoos are going to get credit for doing something to save animals, they need to be doing something that follows those words. If that can happen, zoos will be one of the best places for animals to live and prosper to reproduce exponentially to allow species and biodiversity to rapidly increase.
Zoos must take responsibility for the knowledge of the public on the conditions of these animals so everyone is able to make an informed decision about their next trip to the zoo. Everyone can keep secrets but when it comes to animals rights, everything needs to be transparent. “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a leader in the anti-zoo movement. One large organization called”PETA is firmly opposed to keeping wild animals in captivity,” Lisa Wathne, the group’s exotic animal specialist, told Current Events. “There are some animals, such as tigers and elephants, which roam large areas in the wild, that should never be held captive. Since 1990, there have been at least 220 incidents in 40 states involving big cats.” (Current Events) yet do we hear about any of these tragic incidents? No, because they are kept hidden from the public. This is extremely unethical. If zoos would find ways to stop these events from occurring, zoos would be a better place to house endangered species. Zoos are taking animals from other countries such as Africa and bringing them to a new and unfamiliar place with a totally different way of life along with climate. They must make them comfortable with this new change. This begs the thought that “If animals can’t live safely in their wild homes, we want to make sure they thrive in human care, and we want to partner with other researchers, governments, businesses, and nonprofits to tackle conservation comprehensively. Saving species is an evolving and ongoing commitment. That’s why zoos are not only ethical–they’re critical.”(The New York Times Upfront) Zoos are very important to our world and the future of many species, but we just have to make sure that ethical guidelines are being examined.
Looking back at all of the research, zoos can make an immense impact on the future of species as long as they follow certain ethical standards and understand the needs of animals living in them. Zoos have to realize they are responsible for the well being of the animals inside and the information that the public is made aware of with the conditions of the animals within the zoos. No one will ever really know what occurs behind the scenes within a zoo, but there is still hope for a change of what we do know. Zoos can strive with help along the way from conservationists, biologists, and researchers giving them the advice and support that they bargain for. As long as zoos do not exploit animals for profit, they can bring back the hope that animal conservation can change biodiversity and the way our planet is today. Help save the animals now!
Works Cited
Current Events. “Are Zoos Bad News?” Ebsco, 21 January 2008,
Derry, Alex. “The little zoo of horrors.” Ebsco, 11 April 2011, New York Times Upfront.
“Are Zoos Ethical?” Ebsco, 21 November 2016,