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Are Zoos Good For Animals?

October 30, 2015

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There's a lot of controversy surrounding zoos. Most of us have probably taken a trip to the zoo at some point, just for the chance to see animals that we would never get to see in our normal lives. How else would many of us be able to see elephants, tigers, lions, monkeys, and countless other species? The question is, though, are zoos really a good place for animals to be? 

Animal Rights

Many organizations and individuals believe that zoos go against all principles surrounding animal rights. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for example, believes that zoos compromise animal rights, because in zoos animals are caged, used for entertainment purposes, and sometimes poorly cared for. Think about it for a second; what right do we have as human beings to capture wild animals, keep them in enclosures that are incredibly small compared to their natural habitat, and charge to have them regularly viewed by the public? Zoo animals are often taken from the wild in order to be put on display, and are bought and traded as though they were objects rather than living beings. PETA might just have a point here. 

Is the zoo really the best place for this majestic polar bear? Is the zoo really the best place for this majestic polar bear? Courtesy of zoochat.com

The Other Side

There are some who argue that zoos provide a valuable education resource. For example, most people are not able to travel around the world in order to observe and learn about different kinds of animals. The zoo allows people to see these animals up close. Zoos also give scientists and researchers the opportunity to closely study a certain type of animal, and perhaps learn how to keep that species alive in the wild. There are also animals that are endangered or close to extinction that live in captivity, and people fear that releasing them could lead to the total elimination of the species. 

Zoos often house endangered species, like this African elephant. Zoos often house endangered species, like this African elephant. Courtesy of Bernard Gagnon

Animal Sanctuaries

There is a big difference between zoos and sanctuaries. Zoos often operate as commercial ventures, where animals are bought and sold. Sanctuaries, however, are typically not-for-profit organizations where animals who are unable to survive in the wild due to illness, injury, or trauma are given a second chance at life. Sanctuaries also often offer care to more specific types of animals; for example, elephants at an elephant sanctuary will obviously be the focus of the efforts, hopefully meaning that the elephants will have more space to live and more appropriate care. 

These lions found sanctuary at a wildlife reserve that caters to abused and exotic animals. These lions found sanctuary at a wildlife reserve that caters to abused and exotic animals. Courtesy of Jerry Luterman

Whether or not you think zoos are a problem is really up to you. Take a close look next time you're at the zoo, though. Are the animals thriving? Do they have enough space to meet their needs? It's worth thinking about. 

Have Your Say!

What are your thoughts on this issue? Start a conversation in the comments section!