Zoos are morally wrong
Opening arguments. 1: Zoos keep endangered animals, like Asian elephants, and the giant panda.
A variety of international and U.S. laws offer protection to endangered species. Depending on the law, it may be a crime to capture or kill listed species, fail to act to recover them, or harm their habitat or range.
The Endangered Species Act lists more than 1,200 U.S. plant and animal species as endangered or threatened with the possibility of becoming endangered. The law requires recovery plans to ultimately delist species.
The IUCN-World Conservation Union maintains a record"the Red List"of the world's species that are threatened with extinction. The Red List now includes 16,928 species"more than 8,400 animals and more than 8,400 plants"that are critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.
Signed by more than 160 countries, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an agreement to restrict trade of more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, including live and dead specimens (such as marmosets) and parts (such as ivory).
Other laws and treaties"such as the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles"have a narrower focus.
2: Like I said before, A new international study of zoos and aquariums shows that these family attractions do teach the public about the delicate balance between animal species and their habitats.
Sociologist Eric Jensen from the University of Warwick worked with Andy Moss from Chester Zoo and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) on the largest study of its kind to assess if these facilities did achieve their public education goals.
Before I begin, I'd just like to point that zoos, whether it be for entertaiment or education, are irrefutably primarily utilised for the benefit of man and do not prioritise the well-being of animals over the profits and progressions of humanity. That is an undeniable fact that con cannot argue with. So, the only way that animal captivity could be deemed acceptable, is if the animals living in zoos live a more prosperous and fullfilling life than if they were to live in the wild. And that's the main question that needs to be answered in order to adjudicate whether or not zoos are morally wrong. I'm going to prove that zoos exclusively benefit humans and only harm the freedom and livlihood of animals on a general scale.
Zoos can't replicate an animal's natural habitat
Biologists from Oxford University reported that carnivorous species such as Polar bears, lions, tigers and cheetahs “show the most evidence of stress and/or psychological dysfunction in captivity” and that “the keeping of naturally wide-ranging carnivores should be either fundamentally improved or phased out.” (1)
A survey of the records of 4,500 elephants both in the wild and in captivity discovered that the average life span for an African elephant in a zoo was 16.9 years, whereas African elephants thriving in a nature preserve died of natural causes at an average age of 56 years. Researchers concluded that “bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impairs their viability.” (2)
The typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear is one-millionth the size of its home territory in the wild - which can reach up to 31,000 square miles. It has also been reported that some captive polar bears spend up to a quarter of their day in what scientists call "stereotypic pacing", which sees the bears strolling meaninglessly around the enclosure over and over again with no real purpose.
Also, the infant mortality rate for captive animals in captivity is around 65 percent and this has also been linked to the problem with the size and credibilty of the animal's enclosure.
Animals are not designed to be crammed into such small spaces and gazed upon by loud humans for the rest of their impovershed lives. Just because we are the dominant species on this planet and we can, doesn't mean we should.
Zoos are not successful breeders
It is often claimed that zoos are vital for the protection of endangered species. However, of the nearly 6,000 endangered and threatened species recorded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, only 120 are used in zoo breeding programs.
Furthermore, a number of the 120 animals used in breeding programs are notoriously difficult to breed, such as the panda and the elephant, and their numbers have not significantly changed. In fact, in the case of elephants, not a single species of its kind has successfully been bred in an Australian zoo and despite attempts to increase their population in zoos throughout Europe and the United States, their numbers are still decreasing throughout, and it is predicted that elephants will be non-existent in zoos across Europe and the U.S within a mere fifty years. (3)
Moreover, there is also the problem of genetic diversity. In small populations (often the case in zoos) the issue of inbreeding is often a prominant one, which can result in genetically weaker offspring. These offspring are more vulnerable to death at a younger age and often struggle to breed later on in their lives, deafeating the whole purpose of the program.
Zoos are clearly not a viable location for most animals to breed and this takes a huge chunk of credibility out of the existence of the zoo - if they're not successful in saving endangered species then what are they useful for?
Animals becoming endangered is a problem created by us, and should be solved through environmental conservation and legislation banning the act of poaching, not through forcing species to unnaturally breed in a cage.
Zoos are not educational
Endlessly claiming that they provide the unprecedented opportunity for people to observe and learn about wild animals and that this inspires people to contribute to their preservation, perhaps the zoo's strongest argument is that it's an educational nature hub for the public. But what are they really showing us?
Keeping animals in zoos articulates the message that animals are materialistic commodities and that they only serve as learning bait for humans, nothing else.
The conditions under which animals are sustained in zoos typically distorts their behaviour and don't actually represent how the animal would act in the wild. Animals in zoos are merely small components of their wild counterpartsa and if people desire a genuine insight into the behaviour of wild animals, nature documentaries and books are the key to gaining a true and complete knowledge of wild animals, by depicting them in their natural habitats.
(4) William Booth, “Naked Ape New Zoo Attraction; Surprise Results From People-Watching Study,” The Washington Post 14 Mar. 1991
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