Morality of Zoos

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Almost each and every one of us has grown up with fond childhood memories of visiting the local zoo amongst family and friends. After all, where else can one see animals from all over the world in one place? In the midst of all the fun and enjoyment we have all experienced from zoos, we have failed to take into account the life of the things that we are so excited about seeing there – the animals. Each and every day, the animals enclosed in zoos for human entertainment are exposed to abuse, cruelty, and most importantly stress due to an unnatural living environment, creating a collection of unhappy animals. In this essay, I will also explore other examples of zoos in which animals are used for paid human entertainment such as circuses and aqua parks, where creatures like dolphins are dumped into a small glass pool and forced to perform tricks for merely human satisfaction. This essay will also explore acceptable forms of animal zoos; ones that are used solely for the purpose of breeding and conserving highly endangered species. While it is true that zoos can sometimes be beneficial, and used to aid animals in conservation and breeding, the sad reality is that zoos confine wild animals into tiny, artificial habitats and expose them to great amounts of stress, cruelty and abuse for the purpose of profit and human entertainment. For this reason, modern zoos are immoral and should only be allowed to exist if they are large-scale conservation centers used to aid in the preservation of endangered species.

Zoos have become a very hot topic of controversy in today’s world. It is common knowledge that zoos are not the natural habitats of animals. Animals around the world are held captive and kidnapped from their natural life for the duration of their lives solely for the purpose of our viewing pleasure. Zoos can be defined as “public parks, which display animals, primarily for the purposes of recreation or education,” (Jamieson, Dale). The first modern American zoos were created in Philadelphia and Cincinnati in the 1870s. Today in the United States, there are hundreds of zoos that are visited by millions of people every year. (Jamieson, Dale). “Iron-barred concrete-floored cages” and animals behind bars (Millar, Royce, and Cameron Houston) is a typical sight at many popular zoos. They vary from “roadside menageries run by hucksters, to elaborate zoological parks staffed by trained scientists” (Jamieson, Dale). Other popular forms of zoos are aqua parks and circuses. Aqua parks such as the Sea World amusement park in Florida (Singer, Peter) are home to many animals such as whales and dolphins, which are held in captivity and forced to perform tricks and shows for public entertainment. Animals in captivity are forced to abandon all their natural characteristics and instincts. “It is possible to visit zoos and see bored animals pacing back and forth in cages, with nothing to do but wait for the next meal” (Singer, Peter). Regular meal times means that they no longer have the need to hunt for survival. While this may sound like a good thing, there are a few things to take into account. The first is that the zoo animals, all of which are born natural hunters, will no longer be able to survive and fend for themselves if they are released back into the wild (Zoos: Imprisonment or Preservation). The second is the degree of confinement which zoo animals are forced to live under in their small cages and aquariums. To take this idea into perspective, imagine the world’s fastest animal, the cheetah. When it is crammed in a cage, which no matter how large can never compare to the vast size of the wilderness, the cheetah is unable to run at the fast speeds that make it unique. In the long run, confinement will cause the cheetah’s natural running skills to wear away (Zoos: Imprisonment or Preservation). The same principle can be applied to sea animals confined in aqua parks. “No tank, no matter how large can come close to meeting the needs...
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