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DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

Are zoos ethically justified?

Asked by DoNotKnowMuch (2974points) May 30th, 2016

What is your position on zoos? Do you feel that they there are no ethical concerns, are you somewhat concerned, or do you feel that zoos are inherently wrong?

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24 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

For the most part, zoos are not the educational resource they were in a less enlightened time.

Some, but few, serve a purpose in protecting species that are close to extinction. The San Diego Zoo’s work on restoration of the California condor is a good example.

But for every SD Zoo, there are fifteen more that are inhumane prisons for animals,

stanleybmanly's avatar

That’s an increasingly tough call. I wonder how many species are now better off in zoos than coping with man induced horrors in what remains of their natural habitats.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

No… they are like prisons for animals. Freedom is more important. We have enough footage of most animal behavior that we don’t need zoo’s

Mimishu1995's avatar

I have always viewed the zoos as merely funhouses for curious people who want to see wild animals in 3D instead of though televisions, and the animals are pretty much sad puppets that are used and abused whenever human pleases.

Pandora's avatar

On one hand. Zoos are trying better to expand their spaces for animals to have more freedom, but for the species that are becoming extinct because of man butchering them, there is no other chance but zoos. Zoos also need people to help fund them so that the animals can survive and have food and a safe environment. People will not go to zoos to give them money for not viewing these animals and that is for 2 reasons. One it is their only chance to see them and two, you can’t be assured if they are reasonably being care for if no one on the outside gets to see them. Also the rarer the animal the more likely there is some idiot who has to feel he was the one to bag the last ones. These animals that hunt animals feel special for having the bragging rights of hunting down a rare species and killing it.
Now if only they were rare, then maybe these animals won’t need to just survive and can live a proper life. But for some reason we aren’t allowed to hunt down those a holes.

JLeslie's avatar

More and more I have a really tough time seeing animals caged at a zoo. Even when the animals have fairly large spaces to live in, with mostly natural barriers, it still troubles me.

Some places take in animals that were hurt, or aggressive, and these are like sanctuaries, and that’s easier for me.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

What would Jane Goodall think about zoo’s?

YARNLADY's avatar

I am in favor of zoos that have the best possible interest of the animal as their policy. There is no special benefit to a great zoo habitat versus a natural habitat. The animal doesn’t care!

Unofficial_Member's avatar

I believe different zoos in different countries have different systems so it wouldn’t be fair to generalize every zoo based on certain zoo. That’s when you’re concerned with ethical cleanliness, health, and well-being of the animals (Since you didn’t mention what specific factors that could qualify as unethical).

Zoos all around the world have something in common, it’s caged animals. Do I find this as problem? Yes. I prefer that animals are allowed to roam free in the environment but if you see that zoos in advanced countries treat their animals in such a good way that the animals basically live in confined paradise with the best chance of survival then you’ll think that a qualified zoos are the best place for animals to stay.

For some rare and highly hunted animals, a zoo is good alternative to preserve these species due to the ongoing threats that exist in their environment. I personally prefer natural reserves than zoos but I understand the space and cost limitation.

flutherother's avatar

I feel very uncomfortable seeing animals in circuses or zoos. It is cruel and unnatural and I don’t think it is ethically justified.

longgone's avatar

This is an easy question to answer, for me: No. I would have to work hard to arrive at another conclusion.

ucme's avatar

Wildebeest in their wildest most fantastical dreams see themselves in a zoo
They are placed as immediate neighbours next to the lion pen & flip them the finger through the safety of the bars…utopia

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I have pondered over this question a lot. I like to visit zoos, but I am opposed to animal exploitation. However, zoos over here do play an important conservation role and the animal enclosures in zoos I have visited have always been clean, spacious and the staff present as educated, informed and caring of the animal’s welfare. For instance, Taronga Zoo and Western Plains Zoos run conservation programs for elephants and gorillas, for corroboree frogs, little penguins, for Tasmanian devils, rock wallabies, long-nosed bandicoots and a range of birds.

Melbourne Zoo also runs captive breeding programs for threatened species and they are involved in a range of international research programs. They also run conservation programs to educate visitors about things like palm oil and how it affects Orangutans.

South Australia’s zoo is currently bringing 80 black rhinos to Australia so they will be safe from poachers. The plan is that they can be reintroduced to their natural environment when the hunting threat is gone.

So I think zoos have an important research, conservation, and educative role. As long as they are funding programs that help animals in the wild, I feel they do have a place. However, I also think they have a responsibility to ensure animals in their care are treated respectfully and are not exploited. The enclosures and care of the animals should be very carefully managed. Lots of space and activities that encourage natural behaviours. A number of zoos here are important places of refuge for injured animals that cannot be released into the wild. Not all zoos are ethical. Enclosures are not always spacious and ensuring the animals are not bored is also not necessarily an integral part of their work. So not all zoos are equal. I think we have a responsibility to be aware of the work zoos we visit are involved in and of how they care for the animals in their care. If a zoo isn’t doing the right thing, I don’t think we should give them our patronage.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

Thanks everyone.

I have major issues with zoos, and feel that at some point we will/should look back on with regret and shock. And I agree with those here that mention the work that some zoos do in the restoration of endangered species. However, I think it’s unfortunate that the only way we can fund this work is through zoos.

Cruiser's avatar

If you have issues with zoos I encourage you to look into the…

Accredidation through AZA means that facility has achieved the gold standard for care, breeding, feeding and exhibits for all animals in their care. I have been an AZA member for over 20 years and more dedicated people to their cause you will never meet.

LostInParadise's avatar

I have mixed feelings.

There is nothing like seeing an animal up close. It is different from seeing a video. If the animal is doing well in the wild then the zoos contain only a small fraction of the population. If the animal is not doing well then the zoos help preserve it and help generate sympathy for the animal’s cause by getting people to see it.

It is also wrong to put animals on display in cages. The zoos should try to provide as natural an environment as possible.

On balance, I think there should be some zoos. I am more opposed to having animals in circuses.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@DoNotKnowMuch I see that some people also say something about zoos being an alternative for endangered animals. To me the places like that aren’t “zoos”, they are “animal sanctuaries”. I have no problem with sanctuaries. I just don’t like the zoos where animals are being exploited.

And think about it, an animal needs its natural habitat to live. If you trap it in a close space, it will lose its natural instinct, the things that make it the very animal it is. It will be no more than just a moving decoy. That is my worst fear when it comes to zoos.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

I’m curious to hear from those who feel strongly about blaming the mother – what are your thoughts about zoos?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Shouldn’t that be a new question @DoNotKnowMuch? Your question above is about a very specific situation, rather than about zoos generally.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

^ good point. I think I will try to formulate a question. This whole zoo thing has really resulted in some of the most surprising conversation I have seen here on fluther. I never would have imagined the positions many are taking here.

Cruiser's avatar

@DoNotKnowMuch Since you asked again about the Zoo’s responsibility I will reiterate my support for the zoos. My company is directly involved in exhibit construction and you can see my product in every zoo and aquarium in the US and around the world (that is if you knew what to look for) I attend the AZA international convention every year and meet with curators, exhibit coordinators, vets, zookeepers, architects and I have yet to meet anyone that did not take the animals well being and the visitors experience and safety seriously.

And I can tell you that zookeeper that took the life of that Gorilla is glad he/she did what they had to do to save that boys life and beyond heartbroken for having to just that.

jca's avatar

I think zoos do good conservation work (for example, the Cincinnati Zoo where the gorilla was killed is one example). A zoo cannot exist on only endangered species (black rhino, lowland gorilla, California condor), so in order to survive and be a destination for tourists, they have to have many animals. The last zoo I was at was the Philly Zoo about two years ago. I’m going to the Bronx Zoo next week. Both of these zoos are renowned for their animal conservation efforts and their lifelike, spacious exhibits.

I’ve also been to Sea World, which is another example of something that is similar to a zoo and under fire for cruelly exploiting animals, yet they are attempting to raise awareness of not only the animals but of ecological issues worldwide.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Zoos are neither justified or vilified, they are what they are.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your answer.

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