The Instigator
Con (against)
8 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
2 Points

Keeping Animals in Zoos is unethical

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/19/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,200 times Debate No: 61369
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (2)




1. First round for acceptance

2. No new arguments in the last round

3. The debate should be impossible to accept. Finding a way to accept without permission will result in an automatic loss for Pro. If you would like to accept, please say so in the comments section, and I will challenge you in a week or so.

4. Arguing for the non-existence of morality is disallowed.

Good luck, Pro.


I accept this debate gladly, to you I give a yo ho

Gonna argue keepin' animals 'n zoos is unethical

I'm excited to debate my opponent, the nigh-unbeated Uchiha-Madara

This should be far more interestin' an the desert called Saraha

I believe unethical is very similar to "immoral"

Immorality means irrationality, the connection is obvious

Thus I technically have to basically fulfill and prove

--In other words the resolution is "Animals shouldn't be kept in zoos"

I believe the burden rests on me-- more 'an you at the very least,

But it won't be too hard for me, I've faced bigger beasts

Good luck to your round, I know you're quite hard to beat

But I'll try my best to the end, protectin' the meat we eat
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks, Pro.
That was a very creative acceptance rap.
Pro is correct in observing that the majority of the BOP lies on him.
In fact, I'm not completely sure why I didn't structure this debate so that he could give his opening argument first...
Nevertheless, I will provide a single contention against the notion that keeping animals in zoos is unethical.

C1) Conservation Efforts

Animals do not possess the personal autonomy necessary to have "natural rights", in the traditional sense; the only thing that distinguishes them from the rest of the amoral universe is an ability to feel pain (and pleasure, in some cases). For this reason, it is appropriate to apply a utilitarian system of morality when deciding what is just and what is not, in regards to animals. This naturally leads us to the conclusion of Collectivism (because "the collective" = "the majority" in utilitarianism).
With a collectivist framework established, keeping animals in zoos becomes completely ethical, because many zoos serve as centers for the animal conservation effort, which benefits animals as a whole:

"...the procedure for acquiring animals has also changed. Whereas zoos previously captured most of their specimens directly from the wild, they now get many animals through captive breeding programs and other zoos. Some breeding programs also help to restore threatened species. After 10 years of working to strengthen the population numbers of the endangered Californiacondor, a type of vulture, the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos were able to rebuild a population of fewer than two dozen birds to around 170 birds... Successful breeding programs brought the Pere David"s deer back from extinction. Though this Asian deer ceased to exist in the wild, Chinese and European zoo programs enabled four of the deer to be released back into the wild in 1985, where they"re now self-sustaining [source: Encarta]." (

Thus, even if we assume that containment in zoos causes animals suffering (which I will certainly contest, when my opponent inevitably brings it up), it would still be ethical because it would still advance the well-being of the animal kingdom as a whole at the expense of a few individuals' suffering.

The resolution is negated.


Great. Ultitarianism.

Well, first I have to say....
Animals have rights like humans do. Do innocent people end up in jail? Not if we know they're innocent for one hundred percent sure. Do innocent, non-crime-commiting animals end up in jail. The answer is yes. The inescapable prison, behind bars, for people to look at, with food and sleep but no allowance out...why, this is just like jail. Why do animals have human rights?
The answer is right in front of you. No, the answer IS you. You are an animal. A highly capable intelligent dominant animal of the world, yes, but an animal nevertheless, as classified by Wikipedia and many (scientific) websites. [1][2][3] As seen here clearly humans are animals. If we deserve the right to keep the innocent out of jail, then innocent animals should be allowed out of such a jail-like environment. Not to mention that zoos are only just about as well kept as jails. Pretty much everything important in nature is lost to them, and not only that, many escapes have been mentioned, showing that these animals really don't want to be kept in zoos. [4][5] In fact, to stress this, animals, although not having as much of conscientiousness as human beings, are quite intelligent and manage to escape quite some times, showing that they are very human-like, even if they can't understand what philosophy is. [6]
Also, not to mention many animals are mistreated in jails, asbused and neglected. Whoops, I mean zoos. [8]

Now, my opponent tries talking about the re-breeding of animals, those endangered species. However, although putting these animals into zoos may be beneficial, the suffering defeats their benefits. Source [7] states that "In the 2010 update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, 17,315 species were listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. That's out of 1,740,330 described species (which is probably only a fraction of the number of species actually in existence)." As clearly seen here, if every single animal were to be captured, only 17,000 over 1,740,000 would recieve this benefit. That's 1 to 1000 ratio. You're telling me here that the endangered animals' benefits outweighs a thousand times more animals' freedom and escape into naturality? Please.

Back to you, Uchi.
[2] Tattersall Ian, Schwartz Jeffrey (2009). "Evolution of the Genus Homo".Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences37: 67–92.doi:10.1146/
Debate Round No. 2


Excellent. I will get right into rebuttals.

Pro claims that humans are animals, and therefore, animals have all the rights that we assign to ourselves as humans such as life and liberty. If true, this would certainly disallow keeping animals in zoos. However, it is clear from Pro's sources that he is only referring to the term "animal" in the biological sense, which totally ignores the philosophical/ethical distinctions between humans and animals.

The moral significance (i.e. rights) of any given entity is determined by observing the characteristics that distinguish that entity from the rest of the amoral universe. In the case of human beings, the first and foremost distinguishing characteristic is *personal autonomy*-- our ability to utilize our rational faculties to choose our own actions and control ourselves, totally free of external influence. This inherent self-ownership that comes with personhood logically entitles us as humans to natural rights such as life and liberty. While some higher classes of animals may have varying degrees of limited autonomy, animals in general are only morally distinguishable in that they can feel pain and some forms of pleasure. This limited distinction naturally grants them very limited moral significance, justifying only the most rudimentary rights, such as 'the right to not be needlessly harmed'. It is for this reason that we do not consider anything morally wrong with a predator/prey relationships in nature or pest control in residential areas-- animals simply do not have the same rights that we do.

Hence, Pro's contention fails. We cannot logically condemn keeping animals in zoos on the basis that it violates human rights... animals don't have human rights. In order for Pro to sustain this contention, he must show that keeping animals in zoos violates *animal* rights, which have been shown to be quite minimal.

Now, Pro does sort of does this by claiming that keeping animals in zoos is akin to jailing innocents, which could be interpreted as a violation of an animal's right to not be needlessly harmed. However, conditions in zoos are not *nearly* as harsh as Pro makes them out to be; in fact, I will attempt to show that zoos have a neutral, if not beneficial, effect on their contained animals.

The first thing was must note is that Pro's description of zoos is factually inaccurate-- In general, conditions in modern zoos are actually very accommodating to the animals: "Zoos have improved significantly in the last 4,000 or so years. Gone are the old steel-bar enclosures and cold cement cages. Most zoos these days use natural-looking barriers like moats or ditches to separate animals from people, and have mini-habitats that resemble the animals’ natural environment... Zookeepers now understand that many animals, such as monkeys, bears, and elephants, need engaging activities to prevent boredom and mental deterioration." (

There are, of course, a few zoos which do not treat their animals well, and as a result, animals tend to frequently try escaping from such zoos. However, such zoos are far from being the majority, so their unethical zoo-keeping practices does not render the general practice of keeping animals in zoos to be unethical. There are plenty of organizations like the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) which specifically make it their goal to "guide, encourage and support the zoos, aquariums and like-minded organisations of the world in animal care and welfare, environmental education and global conservation." (

Given that the conditions of zoos is actually pretty decent, there is solid logic and evidence to support the notion that, from an animal's point of view, life in zoos compared to life in the wild is actually very similar, if not *better*.
From the novel Life of Pi (pg. 19-23):

"Well-meaning but misinformed people think [wild] animals are 'happy' because they are 'free'… The life of the wild animal is simple, noble, and meaningful, they imagine. Then it is captured by wicked men and thrown into tiny jails. Its 'happiness' is dashed. It yearns mightily for 'freedom' and does all it can to escape. Being denied its 'freedom' for too long, the animal becomes a shadow of itself, its spirit broken. So some people imagine. This is not the way it is. Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where fear is high and the supply of food low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured. What is the meaning of freedom in such a context?

"Animals are territorial. That is the key to their minds. Only a familiar territory will allow them to fulfill the two relentless imperatives of the wild: the avoidance of enemies and the getting of food and water. A biologically sound zoo enclosure- whether cage, pit, moated island, corral, terrarium, aviary, or aquarium- is just another territory, peculiar only in its size and in its proximity to human territory. That it is so much smaller than what it would be in nature stands to reason. Territories in the wild are large not as a matter of taste but of necessity. In a zoo, we do for animals what we have done for ourselves with houses: we bring together in a small space what in the wild is spread out… A house is a compressed territory where our basic needs are can be fulfilled close by and safely. A sound zoo enclosure is the equivalent for an animal… Finding within it all the places it needs- a lookout, a place for resting, for eating and drinking, for bathing, for grooming, etc.- and finding that there is no need to go hunting, food appearing six days a week, an animal will take possession of its zoo space in the same way it would lay claim to a new space in the wild… it will behave the same way within its enclosure as it would in its territory in the wild… Such an enclosure is subjectively neither better nor worse for an animal than its condition in the wild; so long as it fulfills the animal’s needs, a territory, natural or constructed, simply is, without judgment.”

All of the above has its basis in legitimate scientific research on animal behavior:

"[T]erritorial behaviour, in zoology, the methods by which an animal, or group of animals, protects its territory from incursions by others of its species. Territorial boundaries may be marked by sounds such as bird song, or scents such as pheromones secreted by the skin glands of many mammals. If such advertisement does not discourage intruders, chases and fighting follow... Territorial behaviour is adaptive in many ways; it may permit an animal to mate without interruption or to raise its young in an area where there will be little competition for food. It can also prevent overcrowding by maintaining an optimum distance among members of a population." (

"While mating opportunities represent the most highly-prized resources that animals may compete for, there are many other examples where individuals come into conflict over access to a limited resource. In addition to mates, animals may compete over ownership of food and shelter or territories containing these resources." (

With the factual validity of the LoP quotation established, it becomes clear that its conclusion is true: at the very least, zoos generally have no negative effects on the well-being of its animals.

CONCLUSION: Animals can not be said to have the same rights as human beings-- even the most advanced ones have rather minimal rights, and containment in zoos does not even come close to violating those rights; rather, I have shown that modern zoos have anywhere from a neutral to a beneficial impact on the animals living in them.
The resolution is negated!



You win, Uchi. I concede.
I'll get my revenge!!!
Debate Round No. 3


I accept 9space's concession and look forward to debating him again in the near future ^_^
Vote Con!


Vote my opponent. He has won.
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Snuphalem 2 years ago
I'm not one of those hippie jokes who's like "hey man save the animals duuude" and have no reasoning or meaning to their beliefs.

It is unethical. Just make a zoo full of videos and pictures for all you pathetic people who make themselves think you NEED to see an animal.
1. You're literally going to see animals deprived of their natural right. Great message to your children but they don't know that so it's not bad right?

2. You won't even remember the experience a year, 3 years, 10 years from the event. Most people only remember going to the zoo rather than WOW I SAW A LION SITTING IN A CAGE!

3. It's so much more meaningful to see the animal in the wild. I'd rather not see a lion for 30 years and then be amazed the first time I get to see on and in it's natural habitat.
It's so boring seeing an animal just sitting in a very small cage.

4. So much is misunderstood, it numbs the minds of the youth and they think so little of the animal. It's like when young children watch/play call of duty and their minds are numbed by the thought of death/murder. It's a kill streak not death!

Would you like to be imprisoned for your entire life?

I wish I could take this debate.
Posted by djdipretoro 2 years ago
I'll take the debate.
Posted by suzyy97 2 years ago
It's not unethical. many zoos have preserved a number of species of animals. God gave us the Creation Mandate, we have dominion over animals.

Treating animals poorly, yeah that's bad.
Posted by cheyennebodie 2 years ago
Went to the zoo a couple days ago with my daughter and a couple of my grandkids. Sure was fun.And I am sure those gazelles appreciated having that fence between them and the lions.
Posted by blackkid 2 years ago
Depends on whether the "clients" are being saved or being captured. Both types of zoos exist.
Posted by LostintheEcho1498 2 years ago
Hmmm this is fun. I'll take it if no one else wants to but it seems there is a line. Anyway, I have to agree with Terridax in that ethics is all relative. Plus those animals in zoos are generally treated pretty well.
Posted by Terridax 2 years ago
I'm interested to see what you think on the subject of people owning pets, as personal pets often get treated a lot worse than animals in a zoo. In the end though, ethics is all relative; what some find ethical others may not, and visa-versa.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
I am Con. If you were to accept this debate, you would have to argue that keeping animals in zoos IS unethical.
Posted by grotto77 2 years ago
I am not sure I follow all the rules as I'm new.

I'd however would like to challenge this statement. I presume I'm not supposed to debate now, but I'll say I a concerned about animal rights and their well-being, but I would still challenge the statement.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
awesome. i'll challenge you in about a week, defro.

@9space: i'm already doing a debate with you...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by dynamicduodebaters 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession.