Growing up, it was extremely common for a school to announce to its students that they would be having a field trip to the local zoo. Students were always excited at the idea of seeing all of the exotic animals close up, and teachers saw it as a great learning opportunity.
While many people enjoy their trips to the zoo, and their ticket purchases may help some wildlife conservation organizations, zoos are nevertheless archaic and exploit the animals for money and entertainment.
It is unethical for these wild animals to be kept in enclosures. Animals deserve to roam free in their native territories.
Tigers should not be forced to pace back and forth in a tiny enclosure so that ten-year olds can say they saw a tiger. Nor should polar bears have to continuously swim figure eights because their pool is too cramped.
It is also no secret that some of these animals die from poor living conditions, get auctioned off, or develop neurotic and self-harming behavior while encaged.
A Freedom for Animals study also showed that around 7,500 animals in European zoos are killed because of a ‘surplus’ and their lack of space.
They also revealed that 40 percent of lion cubs in zoos die before reaching one month of age, whereas in the wild, only 30 percent of cubs die before they are at least six months of age (most of these deaths are due to predation).
Many zoos have their own breeding program and defend it on the basis of conservation. However, a majority of these animals are not on the endangered list and the main reason for these programs is to maintain the zoos’ animal population so more and more visitors come back.
There is also the argument that zoos provide education to their visitors; however, this may not be entirely true. A study at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. showed that visitors “spent less than eight seconds per snake exhibit and only one minute with the lions” and that “numerous studies have shown that exhibiting animals in unnatural settings may undermine conservation by leaving the public with the idea that a species must not be in jeopardy if the government is being used for display and entertainment.”
Most of the time, many visitors are not actually paying the animals any genuine attention, and solely go to their enclosures to snap a few photos, gawk at them, and then leave to the next enclosure. Zoos have even noticed that baby animals tend to attract the most visitors and exploit their cuteness.
While there are a few zoos (i.e. the San Diego Zoo) that do genuinely care about the well being of their animals, and are widely known organizations meant to provide aid to injured animals, most zoos should start being shut down or exposed for their animal abuse.
At the least, it is time to stop supporting their practices through field trips and outings, and instead working to put an end to zoos and contributing to animal preservation.