IntroductionA zoo is an enclosed facility housing and breeding animal display facility that is open to the public for viewing purposes. Wildlife has been collected for showcasing for a few millennium dating back to 2500b.c.e. in Egypt when the rulers had menageries for campaigns, and private display of animals was taken as a symbol of wealth and power. In the current world, approximately 400 professionally managed zoos exist. In the United States, the population that visits the professional zoos is also more than a million people per year. They are popular among the people. However, there has been an ongoing criticism of the ethical concerns that are raised by capturing and caging the animals. The proponents of the zoos argue that zoos are beneficial for education purposes, protecting and procreating almost extinct species, conservation of wildlife and care for the injured and sick animals. However, there are many detrimental effects that the zoos have towards the animal rights and the environment. The paper will discuss how confinement in the zoos strips them off of their right to exist and breed naturally, arguably, to satisfy the human educational curiosity, research, profit and entertainment needs. Zoos are notorious for their poor living conditions, ill-treatment, false conservation and poor animal disposal methods; these problems would not have existed if the animal still lived in their wild habitat.
Argument against zoos
Violation of the animal rights for our benefits
Taking animals and placing them in a zoo, deprives them of their right to exist naturally. A discussion by philosophers Basu, Zandi and CetzalIx state that " Animals with rights should get treated as ends in themselves, and people should not treat them as mean to achieve their ends" (145)..The zoo owners have engaged themselves in enhancing the zoo environment to imitate the natural habitat. However, it still does not provide all the requisite ingredients of their native habitat. The natural habitats for animals consist of families, social groups and an environment where they could perform natural behaviors including food gathering by predation and grazing. Removing an animal from one habitat to another has proven hazardous in some cases due to change in climatical conditions resulting in poor adaptation to the new environment.South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria witnessed the death of 500 animals in less than four years (Fasel 2). Humans moreover have no right to induce breeding in animals. Artificial insemination and other forms of reproduction aimed at propagating the species affect the natural law of survival. The scientific research claimed to benefit animals, is inconclusive, since the zoos have neither the means nor the resources to carry out the research.
Denying the wild animals the right to live in their natural environment for our benefit is exploitative. The proponents of zoos are ardent in the debate that zoos are beneficial for education and conservation purposes. The line between wild animals exploitation and segregation to achieve study and learning of behaviors and traits are very thin. The 20th century witnessed captivity of dolphins and Orca to enlighten the people of the threat they were facing in the wild (Palmer 16). However, it came to light that the rescued dolphins were exploited for their antics and entertainment demonstrations towards humans. Animals in zoos are stripped off their natural habitat and behaviors for the benefit of humankind education. Based on the animal rights law, they are using animals as means to make their ends, and therefore it is outlawed (Garner 361). The scientific research that is acclaimed by the proponents of zoos is not justifiable as its aim is in benefiting humans, rather than advancing the needs and rights of animals. Therefore, following the doctrine of animal rights will mean, putting an end to experiments on animals, breeding animals for the sake of food, medicine, and clothes, using them for hard labor, bringing an end to selective breeding, hunting and creation of zoo for entertainment purposes(Kymlicka 295).
Poor conditions in zoos
Space, sanitation, aeration and feeding programs within the zoo environment are poor. The zoo facilities include small confinements in the form of cages where the animals are bound. There is inadequate lighting; inadequate aeration and the outdoor facilities expose the animals to harsh weather conditions such as too much exposure to scorching sunlight. The cages are also dirty, isolated and have barren concrete which is uncomfortable for the animals. Food and clean water are essential for the animals. Some zoos are unable to provide these regularly due to the inadequate resources. Roadside zoos commonly separate the mothers from their babies, to prevent distraction when the zoo goers engage in public photo shooting, as these activities are a boon to the facilities' income generation.
Pollution by human visitors is also another cause for the poor conditions. Zoos allow for vending within their premises giving leeway for trashing. In the case of aggression from dangerous animals, the zookeepers respond with hostility and harsh restraints. The results of the poor conditions for the animals are detrimental to their survival. The animals, due to confinement, become stressed, self-abusive and develop stereotypical behaviors. The fear of the humans makes the animals apprehensive, evidenced by the pacing of big cats within their cages (Braverman 23).
Disposition of surplus animals
Continued breeding and old age results in surplus or unwanted population which has to be disposed of. (Allen et al. 230). One way of disposing of the animals is by selling them. Other zoos buy the animals through online markets and auctions. It gives animals a monetary value, and they get sold off like general commodities. Other clients who purchase the animals are research laboratories, collectors, hunters, and roadside show menageries (Maynard 12). The conditions, therefore, expose the animals to the ill treatment they had sought to prevent. Other animals are old and slaughtered for game meat. Culling is a form of mercy killing used for surplus animals in many zoos.
A BBC statistic shows that between 3000 and 5000 healthy animals in Europe get killed each year. The methods used in executing the animals are cruel and unnatural (Armstrong and Richard 12). While some animals are shot down, others are killed and displayed for anatomical research. USA zoos prefer the use of euthanasia to help with the birth control for these animals which affects the animal's natural birth processes. There has not been a better way that has been defined to control the surplus population in zoos so far. It would have been better if they were released into the wild thereby restoring their natural lives. In selling, transfer, and killing, the integration bonds that got created within the animal population especially for pack animals get destroyed.
Escaping animals from zoo
Escaped zoo animals pose a danger to the human population. A record from last year shows there have been some escapes by animals from the zoo.The Virginia zoo let loose a red panda, an orangutan left the Chester Zoo, A gorilla escaped the London Zoo, and a lion freed himself from the Leipzig zoo and roamed around the town causing mayhem and fear for hours before it was caught. Big cats and big animals like elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, and wolves will cause a catastrophe in the towns in the vicinity of the zoo. Muskingum zoo in Ohio USA faced a release of animals by the owner who went insane in 2011 (Ou 231). 56 animals got released including big cats, wolves, and bears. These animals caused mayhem within the town. Eventually, 48 animals were shot dead while the rest were tranquilized and sent to other zoos.
False idea of conservation
Many of the zoos do not have a clear-cut plan of their conservation procedures. With the proponents of zoos claiming that the zoos will prevent the animals from extinction, after the creation of offspring's from the almost extinct animals, they do not re-introduce them into the wild. Although the idea of re-introduction has been proven to work for various cases, most zoos still don't practice it (Cheung et al. 1134). Moreover, stocking of animals in zoos will reduce the wild population and impact negatively on the native habitation in the wild. The ecosystem is made to be out of balance. Breeding using animals within the zoo and incorporating some from the wild is damaging to nature conservation. The central ideology of environmentalism is usually to preserve something in its natural habitat (Ruckert 439). Taking them out of the habitat for conservation purposes will, therefore, be an action against conservation efforts.
Public entertainment over public education
An unnatural zoo environment cannot provide an educative representation of the real wild. Zoos are created to educate the public on animal's conservation, welfare, and rights. Animals in a confined cage and surrounded by humans are likely to act unnaturally. They are also stressed and display psychotic behavior. They are therefore not a behavioral representative of their species. Information plaques, recorded talks or guides are used to relay this information to the visitors. However, most of the visitors disregard it or absorb very little information (Basu et al. 156). Other methods could be used to learn about the animal behavior. There are numerous shows on TV such as wildlife programs that show animals in their natural habitat. They are the proper display of the natural animalistic activities in a favorable environment. Therefore, the case on zoos is more of entertainment rather than education.
They claim that there is so much knowledge that passes to people through the zoos that help people to understand the wildlife. Research on behaviors of animal is possible only within a confined environment. Restoration of endangered species can be carried out by induced breeding which takes place within a zoo (Reiser 54). Further, they claim to create a positive and almost natural environment for the animals while feeding them on a proper diet. Animals in zoos are kept safe from the harsh climatic and environmental conditions that lead to their depletion. Since the environment has been polluted and destroyed by the human population, the only fit place for the animals in the zoos.
The opposition against zoos outweighs the proposition out-rightly but we are the superior beings, and we want an excuse to have control over the animals. Zoos are created with the intention of educating people about the nature of animals and their conservation, but they eventually pass the message that animals exist for humans' pleasure. Capturing an animal and using it for personal gain is insensitive and a violation of animal rights. Protecting of habits and animals within their habitats is the best way to go about the conservation. Education could be done through means that feature animals in their wild homes. Each animal has its own life, just as much as every human has. It is consequently fit to allow them to have a right to live their natural life in the wild and find other alternatives to conserve the dwindling reserves.
Allen, Michael P., and Erica Von Essen. "Neo-republicanism as a route to animal non-domination." (2016).
Armstrong, Susan J., and Richard G. Botzler, eds. The animal ethics reader. Taylor & Francis, 2016.
Basu, S. K., P. Zandi, and W. CetzalIx. "Poor management of mini avian zoos, illegal avian parks and unregistered aviaries impacting bird life in developing and under developed nations." (2015).
Braverman, Irus. Wild life: The institution of nature. Stanford University Press, 2015.
Cheung, Shuk-ting, Hau-Ying Chan,...
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