The Morality of Zoos

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The word zoo is a fairly broad term. Zoos are most commonly thought of as an attraction rather than a means for education. More importantly, they are rarely associated with the survival of the human race. While zoos are a form of entertainment for the public and a taxable industry for the government; most of them do in fact research the animals they have in their captivity. This research can be beneficial and life saving for humans and if it were not for this testing, we would not have many key vaccines that we have today. For the sake of this paper the term zoo can be applied to all animals in captivity. This includes those for entertainment, medical testing, and rehabilitation/protection. Tom Reagan wrote on if zoos are morally defensible, but included all of the previously listed forms of captivity under the title of “zoo”. He argues that zoos are immoral because of rights based principles; however, he fails to see the implications of assuming that animals have equal rights to humans. Although his conclusion is false, it is morally wrong and unnecessary to keep an animal in captivity purely for public amusement and financial gain. Reagan presents two views in proving the immorality of zoos. First is the utilitarian standpoint which claims that the suffering of animals being in captivity far outweighs the suffering of humans had the animals not been in captivity. The second view is the rights based principle, which is that animals have rights and should not be in captivity. He sides with the latter of the two theories, deciding that the utilitarian view fails to asses all of the components of human suffering without zoos. He claims that animals morally have rights to freedom and respect thus making it immoral for humans to take this away from them. The real hitch in his theory though, is how he proposes the moral rights of animals. He claims that they have rights because of their awareness to their existence and therefore knowledge of suffering and pleasure....
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