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  • Are Zoos Good or Bad for Animals? The Argument, Explained

Debates about the ethics of zoos abound — but when it comes to animal welfare, there are certainly more cons than pros.

captive primate with person taking photo with phone, pros and cons of zoos

Explainer • Entertainment • Policy

Björn Ólafsson

Words by Björn Ólafsson

For many people, zoos are the only chance they’ll have in their entire lives to see beautiful animals native to far-flung ecosystems — lions, elephants, pandas, lemurs — the list goes on. And they’re popular — over 181 million people visit a U.S. zoo every year . But zoos face criticism from animal welfare organizations and environmental activists for inhumane treatment of the animals they claim to protect. Zoos maintain that they are important aspects of conservation and education. 

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of zoos ?  Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these controversial organizations. 

What Are Some Pros and Cons of Zoos ?

First, not all zoos are created equal. While it is easy to imagine animal ethics as a binary of evil and moral, zoos can vary widely on how they treat their animals, how much space they are given and how the animals are obtained. Still, most zoos tend to have the same positives and negatives overall. 

Arguments Against Zoos

Poor conditions for animals.

Animals Often Only Have Quite Limited Space

Many zoos’ enclosures are too small, especially for animal species that are used to roaming, flying or swimming large distances in the wild. For example, polar bears are used to home ranges of about 1,000 square kilometers in the wild — large swaths of land and ice they enjoy exploring . In zoos, they get a couple hundred square feet. 

Zoos Are  Crowded

In addition to limited space, many zoos cram in as many animals as possible into the enclosures. Many visitors prefer seeing animals up close, instead of peering at them from afar, hidden in their dens or nests. This encourages zoos to increase the number of animals per exhibit,  increasing the likelihood of visitors seeing animals on the move near the boundaries of the enclosure. 

Animals Are Trapped in Unnatural Environments

Anyone who has visited a zoo knows the exhibits are a far cry from the natural landscape they are trying to imitate. Nearly all zoo enclosures contain fences, glass or other barriers for visitors to look through, which are inherently artificial. And the natural-seeming landscapes can sometimes be made out of astroturf, concrete or plastic.

Confinement May Alter the Behavior of Animals

The lack of space, unnatural environments and crowded conditions can directly affect the behavior of animals ; most notably in the form of what’s known as “stereotypy.” Stereotypy is a condition in which non-human animals engage in repetitive behaviors with no apparent purpose, such as pacing for hours on end, wagging tails abnormally or picking their own fur. 

The structure of zoos increases the likelihood of stereotypic behavior due to a lack of enrichment, mundane environments and boring, repetitive schedules. This prevalence of stereotypy in zoos even has its own name: “zoochosis,” or psychosis caused by zoos . 

‘Surplus’ Animals Can Be Killed

After an animal has reproduced successfully and the zoo no longer requires the animal to maintain an exhibit, the animal is deemed “surplus.” At this point, the animal’s welfare is no longer profitable . Zoos can sell the animal to private owners (who may keep the animal in tiny cages for amusement or kill the animal for taxidermy purposes), sell the animal to other zoos or enclosures, or “euthanize” the animal. 

Animals Are Often Mistreated 

Animal mistreatment is much more than hitting or beating an animal. It also includes harmful training techniques, separation from family members and forcing animals to behave in abnormal ways. 

In a report from World Animal Protection, three-fourths of zoos include human-animal interactions , many of which can be very stressful or physically harmful for animals. In some extreme cases, visitors rode on the backs of animals (causing injury) or encroached on the animals’ enclosure (causing stress).

Investigations into popular zoos sometimes reveal that caretakers don’t always clean the exhibits frequently , leaving the animals to live near their feces. The research also reveals many zookeepers hitting animals who “misbehave,” and not helping animals with injuries sustained in the enclosures. While not all animal caretakers behave this way, the reporting suggests many zoos around the world are lax with animal welfare. 

Animals Don’t Like Being Visited

The mere presence of human beings can negatively affect wild animals, especially in massive crowds that are common at zoos. Being bombarded by the sounds, smells and appearances of swaths of humans can trigger the stress responses of some animals . Some studies show that the number of visitors correlates with the amount of stress hormones in many animal species. 

Animals Struggle to Form Connections

Many animals are highly social creatures. Elephants, lions, pigs, cows and many more species are shown to have complex connections, hierarchies and relationships with members of their own kind — especially with friends and family. However, zoo animals rarely stay with the same herd or family for their entire lives. Instead, zoos opt to transfer, sell, buy or relocate animals throughout their lifespans, making it difficult for animals to form social connections . This lack of bonding can harm the animals emotionally. 

Zoos Are for Humans, Not Animals

Most zoos are for-profit enterprises, meaning they have one goal in mind: maximizing revenue. It is easy to see how making more money can come at the expense of animal welfare. For example, a zoo is unlikely to fund an exhibit expansion if it isn’t cost-effective, regardless of its benefits for the animals inside. While many zookeepers form real bonds with their animal companions, the animals still exist under a for-profit, human-centered organization. 

Zoos Promote Human Superiority

The aesthetic nature of zoos — animals in panopticon-like enclosures, viewed 24/7 by members of a different species — can reinforce human superiority. As moral philosopher Lori Gruen writes in her book, “visitors leave the zoo more convinced than ever of human superiority over the natural world.” Of course, zoos also reinforce the idea that humans have a right to take away animals’ freedom and bodily autonomy.

Zoos Don’t Always Help with Conservation — Some Wild Animals Have to Be Caught to Bring Them to Zoos

Many animals in zoos are born in captivity, but that’s not the case for all. Many animals are taken directly from the wild , often when they are babies, to make the transition to captivity a bit easier. At times, this is done in the name of conservation, or when a wild animal is very ill. But many zoos will take animals from the wild, or buy animals from unethical animal traders. 

It’s Often Not Possible to Return Animals to the Wild

Releasing an animal into the wild isn’t always successful, especially if the animal has spent time in climates different from their native regions, like jungles, savannas or ice caps. Properly preparing animals for success in the wild is a multi-stage process that can require thousands of dollars — and it doesn’t always work . Captive-born predator species — disadvantaged by being born and raised in an artificial environment — only have a survival rate after being released into the wild of 33 percent , according to one study. As a result, re-release is not a priority for many zoos.

Zoos Are Poorly Regulated

While there exist many laws that protect animals, such as the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Endangered Species Act , they only offer minimum protections . For example, the AWA excludes entire species of animals, like mice, farmed animals, birds and all cold-blooded animals. Its “minimum” standards of care usually ensure the animals’ safety, not their welfare or happiness. Many animal law experts say these regulations don’t go far enough . 

What Are the Pros of Having Zoos?

They Can Be Important for Researchers

Biologists and zoologists can benefit from studying animals in zoos. Some breakthroughs in animal behavior and treatment, like why elephants swing their trunks or how gorillas develop heart disease, have been made possible because of zoos’ ease of access . However, not all animals behave the same in captivity as they do in the wild, so not all research is possible in zoos. 

Zoos Are Educational — People May Behave “Eco-friendlier” After Going To the Zoo

Zoos can kickstart individuals’ interest in biodiversity, which is a critical aspect of environmental protection. Many zoos include calls to action in their exhibits, highlighting how endangered animals are being poached, driven away, or otherwise killed by human activity. This can inspire some people to behave more conscientiously. One limited survey found that 35 percent of eco-friendly people learned sustainable behavior from zoos . ‘

Zoos Can Help Educate Children About Animals

Zoos are a quintessential school experience for many young people. Children love learning about animals up-close in a safe environment — in fact, education is possibly the biggest advantage of modern zoos. Many programs, like school presentations, guided tours, informational exhibits, and talks with zookeepers can trigger a lifelong love of animals in children .  

But zoos aren’t perfect in this regard. According to a study of zoo visitors in the UK, only 34 percent of children learned more about animals at zoos (the result was slightly better when the children were given  a guided tour). Worse, children did not feel empowered to help with conservation efforts after visiting a zoo. This suggests that if zoos care about education, they need to more actively reach out to schoolchildren for empowerment and education. 

Going to the Zoo Is Affordable

More ethical ways of engaging with animals without removing them from their natural habitats — like whale watching, safaris, hikes, or excursions — are usually expensive or inaccessible for many people. Zoos tend to be relatively cheap for the average family that wants to learn about animals. 


Zoos Can Protect Endangered Species from Extinction

Zoos often claim they can protect entire species from extinction through conservation programs that involve breeding more animals in captivity and then releasing them into the wild. This is especially important for endangered species like pandas. 

While these conservation efforts are truly important, they don’t represent the majority of a zoo’s activities, nor are zoos leaders in conservation worldwide. At the National Zoo, for example, only one-fifth of animals are endangered . In North America, zoos only contribute about 14 percent of all animals reintroduced into the wild as part of a conservation program. Zoos also tend to focus on headline-grabbing endangered animals to bring in visitors, like pandas, elephants or tigers, as opposed to lesser-known but crucial species, like tamarins, kakapos or wombats. 

Are Zoos Good or Bad for the Environment?

Zoos claim to support global biodiversity through conservation efforts like protecting endangered animals. This is somewhat true, although it varies greatly from zoo to zoo. 

On the other hand, zoos are big polluters and use up lots of resources , especially energy and water . Aquariums in particular use tons and tons of water. Zoo animals also generate waste that may or may not be composted or disposed of correctly.

Should Zoos Exist or Be Banned?

Given the many ways that zoos are unethical to animals, the flawed attempts to contribute to conservation, and the positioning of humans as superior to animals, many animal ethicists believe zoos should not exist — or at least, not exist in their current form . 

For example, animal philosopher Dale Jamieson says in his book Ethics on the Ark that zoos primarily “alleviate our sense of guilt for what we are doing to the planet, but they do little to help the animals we are driving to extinction.” He continues to argue that zoos exist for humans alone , and that it is very difficult to wave away the inherent immorality of depriving animals their liberty for the sake of human amusement. 

Instead, private conservation programs can benefit endangered animals without showcasing them to the public. Animal sanctuaries, which are  areas of land in which endangered and other animals are protected by humans, are also advantageous for both individual animals and global biodiversity . 

Zoos do have advantages — fostering curiosity and education chief among them. But experts believe there are other ways of accomplishing these goals without resorting to zoos with tiny enclosures. Excursions, nature documentaries, safaris, local gardens, hikes, boat tours and other ways of interacting with nature don’t involve taking animals out of their natural habitats. 

The Bottom Line

If you do choose to visit a zoo, opt for zoos that have certifications from independent animal welfare organizations. If you are interested in animal conservation, you’d be more impactful donating to a non-zoo animal protection organization instead. And if you do want to visit animals, consider an animal sanctuary or an ethical safari, where you can see animals in their native environments.

Independent Journalism Needs You

Björn Jóhann Ólafsson is a science writer and journalist who cares deeply about understanding the natural world and her inhabitants through stories and data. He reports on the environmental footprint of the meat industry, the alternative protein sector and cultural attitudes around food. His previous bylines include the EU Observer and Elemental. He lives in Spain with his two lovebirds.

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Pros and cons of zoos: Should animals be kept in zoos?

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Animal cruelty or protection? Learn about the pros and cons of zoos and join our debate and poll: Should there be zoos? Should animals be kept in captivity? Vote and explain your view on whether zoos are necessary or should be banned.

Should animals be kept in zoos?

Over 181 million people visit zoos and aquariums every year in the United States, and 25 million in the United Kingdom. Zoos have more visitors than the combined attendance of the four major sports leagues ( NFL , NBA , MLB and NHL ). Despite their immense popularity , zoos have become increasingly controversial institutions. An increasing number of animal rights advocates and animal protection organizations are questioning the role of zoos in modern societies. The shocking evidence of animal abuse in some circuses , dolphinariums and zoos have pushed many environmental and wildlife activist groups to campaign for the closure of many of the institutions that keep wild animals in captivity.

To the question "should animals be kept in captivity?" the initial reaction of most people is rejection. Why should animals be kept in zoos? In an ideal world that would not be necessary, wild animals would roam freely in their natural habitats and we, humans, would find ways to observe them and learn about them without disrupting their lives. However, today on Earth due to population growth and urbanization many animal species are endangered and most people have very few opportunities to observe and learn from animals.

Jane Goodall , the famous British primatologist and one of the most important experts in chimpanzees in the world, has defended the role of zoos in helping us understand and preserve the life of wild animals (see video below). On the other hand, organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Animal Aid and Born Free have initiated campaigns for the closure of zoos, arguing that most zoos deprive animals from their most basic needs and that animal abuse and suffering should not be a source of entertainment.

Do you think that zoos are an effective way to increase awareness about animal life? Do they really help preserve endangered species or it is more a business and a cruel source of entertainment? Is keeping animals in captivity a good way to ensure their future? Let's take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of zoos before we make up our minds.

Watch this video with Jane Goodall on the role of zoos in saving animals

Pros and cons of zoos

These are the most common arguments in favor and against zoos.

Pros of zoos

  • After the famous wildlife conservationist Geral Durrell opened a zoo in Jersey in 1959, zoos all over the world have embraced the mission of saving endangered species in the world. Zoos are not like the exotic animal menageries from the middle ages. They want to provide entertainment but they are greatly concerned with the protection of animals and their natural habitats. Zoos help raising awareness and funding for wildlife initiatives and research projects.
  • Animals are not always caged in zoos. Edinburgh was the first British zoo to follow the idea of displaying animals without bars. The Chester and Whipsnade zoological parks where the first two non-urban zoos without cages and larger enclosures. They opened in 1931. In the 1960s The drive-through safari parks became very popular. Ever since there has been an increasing public concern about animal welfare in zoos.
  • Zoos are monitored and follow strict regulation in most developed countries. There is less room for animal cruelty in zoos than ever before in history.
  • Most people working in zoos are true animal lovers. Veterinary doctors, zoologist, voluntary staff, etc. chose to work in zoos because they like animals, and wanted to work closely with them and help them thrive.
  • Education is another positive feature of zoos. Many children and adults in cities can only see wild animals in TV or the Internet. Zoos offer them the unique experience of contemplating real animals. They can smell them, see how they move and listen their sounds. This is a much more vivid and enriching experience than the one you can get through a screen. Thanks to zoos kids and adult develop empathy toward animals.
  • Zoos are key for research . Being able to observe and study animals is crucial if we want to contribute to help them and repair the ecosystems. They also help redice human-animal conflicts and better understand the needs and psychology of animals. Zoos serve as laboratories to learn more about how to fight animal diseases and develop effective animal anaesthetics and other treatments to help more animals in the future.
  • Another pro of zoos is their role in animal reproduction. Zoos study animal breeding and thanks to them many wild animals in captivity can reproduce. This is particularly important in the case of endangered species. Due to the low density of the population of some animals in their natural ecosystems they struggle to find partners. Some populations in the wild are weakened by endogamy too. In zoos vets and biologist help to prevent inbreeding.

Cons of zoos

  • Animal cruelty in zoos continues to be extremely common. There are continuous cases of animals abused by visitors and zoo workers. Many of them are reported every week in the media, however, the large majority are kept secret and those responsible are never held accountable or punished.
  • Animals in captivity are deprived of many things that are important to them, as a result they become lonely and bored. Many of them suffer from "zoochosis" , a psychological condition characterized by repetitive and obsessive behaviors including vomiting, excessive grooming, coprophagia and self-mutilation. 
  • Most animals in zoos still live in small enclosures and cages . There are Safari Parks and large zoos in which animals have more space and live in an enviroment slightly more similar to their natural habitat .however, the large majority of zoos in the world are much smaller and have less economic means than the big zoos we often see in the media such as the San Diego Zoo, the Berlin Zoological Garden, the San Louis Zoo, etc. 
  • In zoos many animals sicken and die because they contract diseases from other animals and species. Zoos usually group animals from many different parts of the world with very distinct immunological systems. People also have been sickened from diseases contracted from animals in zoos.
  • Many zoos do little for research or animal protection. They are simply businesses run with the sole purpose of making money . Their concern for animals is secondary. Cost efficiency often means they move animal welfare down in the list of priorities. 
  • Zoos and aquariums have incentivized the illegal hunt of animals . Historically poachers have hunted and sold wild animals for zoos all over the world. Although this practice is increasingly prosecuted in most countries, there are still small zoos and aquariums which acquire their animals without paying much attention to their origin. 
  • From an ethical point of view zoos are also questionable. Zoos are a typical form of family entertainment, but associating leisure and fun with the contemplation of animals in captivity can send the wrong signals to our children. Zoos can be construed as a sadistic pleasure .

Do you think zoos are necessary? Do the cons of zoos outweight their benefits? Should we boycott or ban zoos? Vote and join our debate (see below)

Watch this video on "zoochosis" and the living conditions of animals in captivity

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Our Endangered World

12 Reasons Why Animals Should Not Be Kept in Zoos

By: Author Our Endangered World

Posted on Last updated: February 18, 2024

Taking your family for a day out at the zoo has been a sort of tradition for a very long time, and given recent statistics, the number of visitors is growing. Here’s why animals should not be kept in zoos or captivity.

There are many zoos, 421 zoological gardens and aquariums, and a 2.9% business growth this year. In the past five years, the number of zoos has gradually increased. But is there a reason why animals should not be kept in zoos? Keep on reading.

Table of Contents

Reasons why zoos are bad for animals

Most people aren’t always comfortable seeing animals that are kept in zoos. This is due to the inhumane conditions that these animals are forced to endure. Below are a dozen reasons why zoos can be bad for animals:

1. Lack of Sufficient Space

Giraffe in a Zoo

No matter how dedicated a zoo is, it can’t meet the space requirements for most of its animals. Animals such as lions, elephants , and tigers don’t get even close to one percent of the area they roam in the wild.

They normally find themselves locked in cages and only released into an artificial habitat when visitors visit the zoo. On top of that, the animals don’t have much freedom, even in these tiny spaces they are forced to live in. Even if the animals are being fed well, the lack of freedom can cause them to be stressed.

For example, the typical enclosure designed for a polar bear is about a million times smaller than its former natural habitat and roaming grounds. This can make the animals neurotic, causing them to start biting bars, pacing repetitively, and swaying.

See Related : War and the Effect on Wildlife

2. Unnatural Environments

Elephant in Captivity

Some animals are quite intelligent, so keeping them captive should never be an option. The environment that these animals are kept in isn’t natural to them –more so, the animals that are taken from the wilderness and kept in zoos.

Though some zoos plan on reintroducing the animals into the wild after a while, living in zoos makes it impossible for some animals. For example, a lion might have difficulty adjusting to hunting for its meals after spending years being fed and lazing around.

Here’s a table illustrating the different types of animals and the corresponding impact of lack of space or non-proper environments:

See Related : Animals That Start With I

3. Altered Behavior

Tiger Eating Meat

Wild animals have certain behaviors that are uniquely influenced by their environments. Taking an animal –a big cat- into an enclosed habitat when she can’t hunt for herself can harm her life skills.

When big predators are brought up on dead meat and never have to hunt for themselves, mingle with the prey they can’t hunt, and entertain humans with tricks, they get further from their natural behaviors.

Lack of learning valuable animal life skills such as hunting and social structures eventually alters the animal’s behavior.

This alteration of the animals’ behavior will eventually do more harm than good. Reintroduced animals have a hard time coping with life in the wild after long periods away.

See Related : What Is The Hunter’s Role in Wildlife Conservation?

4. Poor Living Conditions

Captive Monkey

Though the zoo’s business has grown from what it was over a century ago, there are still some things that can be improved. Animals are forced to live in artificial habitats that aren’t anywhere close to their former homes (the wild). Their sleeping quarters can get overcrowded, leading to the animals harming each other.

Their lives in captivity can be harsh, especially when the animal has been completely removed from its social structures. The confined living areas are a big contributor to animal stress and lack of physical stimulation, which would be gained from a nice sprint.

See Related : Most Comfortable Animals in The World

5. Short Lifespan

Lemur in Captivity Behind a Cage

Life expectancy for animals in captivity depends on a couple of things, such as their way of life and habitat conservation, among other factors. For example, smaller and faster animals with many predators in the wild tend to thrive in zoos. Slow animals with minimal to zero predators, like elephants, have brief life spans in captivity.

Life expectancy is controlled by most animals’ mental and physical health. Even though they might be getting enough food, if your animals are not okay mentally, they might still not live to their full potential.

See Related : Best Wildlife Conservation Jobs

6. Zoos are Unethical

Monkey's Hand

Humans have no right to hunt and lock up animals for our enjoyment. Animal rights activists argue that hunting, capturing, and putting animals on display is unethical.

The animals, too, have rights, and they shouldn’t be subjected to half the things they undergo. Animals are stressed when they get separated from their packs or herds, especially when they end up as the only one of their kind in their new homes.

When an animal is not on the endangered list, capturing it doesn’t serve any purpose to the animal. Capturing animals –even smart ones like apes, for amusement shouldn’t be happening anywhere. Even though animals behave themselves without a consciousness (we know of), animals are alive and should be treated as such.

See Related: Are Humans Animals? Things to Know

7. Insufficient Knowledge of animals

Bird in a Cage

Some sad facts about zoos are that, at times, the people hired to care for and protect these animals aren’t qualified. Cleaners and feeders spend a lot of time with the animals, and understanding the situation one is getting into can be very helpful.

It can be problematic when the caretakers are not well-informed about the animals they will care for. This is how animals get physical and psychological scars from abuse. If an untrained zookeeper comes across a stubborn animal, they might hurt it if they are impatient.

See Related : Endangered Species in Oklahoma

8. Cruel Treatment by Zookeepers

Caged Raccoon

Zoo animals sustain both physical and psychological scars from harsh zookeepers. However, suffering doesn’t have to be physical; boredom, confinement, and stress can cause an animal a lot of suffering.

Even when properly fed and “well” housed, captive animals can never fully relax in confined spaces—especially animals like lions that are used to roaming vast distances in the wild in search of food.

Caring for animals full-time requires someone who is informed about treating animals well and cares about them. It’s zookeepers who aren’t fond of animals that go around hurting animals even when they haven’t been provoked. The worst ones are the malicious keepers who enjoy hurting animals in captivity.

See Related : Best Books on Endangered Species

9. Surplus Animals Killed and Sold Off

Scared Dog Waiting to be Adopted

Breeding programs in zoos eventually lead to some animals being sold to other zoos or circuses. The allure of baby animals and the crowds they pull can lead a zoological garden director to increase the number of them to keep attracting customers.

Sadly, once the small animals outgrow their “cute” phase, the zoo has to eliminate them since feeding and housing them all can get expensive.

The surpluses are then sold to zoos, aquariums, or circuses. However, they might face death when the animals being culled aren’t in demand. This is a cheaper option than moving them back into the wild.

See Related : Importance of Wildlife Conservation

10. Working with Circuses

Elephant in a Thailand Circus

For the unlucky ones that end up in the circuses, they are always in for a wide awakening. The process of training an animal is a long and brutal one.

It gets even worse for the animal if the trainer is impatient. The poor beast will endure beatings over commands they don’t understand. Here is an example of how harsh it can get when an animal is trained to perform tricks.

The statistics on the number of big cats alone that have died in captivity between 1990 and 2021 is 126. And this is not a definite number of victims; there is probably a good number that hasn’t been documented.

See Related : Best Conservation Posters

11. Breeding

Black Rhino resting in captivity

Though breeding endangered animals to help increase their numbers back in the wild is great, some problems come with it. Understanding the optimal requirements for the reproduction of certain animals can be difficult. This could cause problems for the animal.

Animals also lose their genetic diversity, especially due to inbreeding. Genes evolved to help the animal adjust to a man-made habitat , which can be a downside to the populations of the species in the wild.

When you breed animals in captivity, some cannot sustain themselves in the wild and their natural habitats. This could pass on these genes –dooming the whole species in that region.

See Related : Endangered Species in California

12. Profits and lack of Regulations

Animal Circus

Zoos are built as a source of income for some. The owners of such zoos are focused on maximizing profits even at the animals’ expense. They are not investing enough to save money when designing a habitat for their animals. Zoos spend millions on building stages and extravagant facilities rather than investing in creating a realistic natural habitat for their young animals.

Since most countries don’t have any regulations on handling animals in zoos, these business people can do whatever it takes to make the most profits possible. Profits are also gained by selling captive animals to other zoos or circuses.

See Related: Different Animals That Can’t Jump

Do zoos have any negative effects on the environment?

Zoos can be productive when reviving an animal species on the brink of extinction. This isn’t always guaranteed since the breeding practices could be insufficient or even produce animals unsuitable for survival in the wild.

When it works out, breeding endangered animals has positive results that can be felt even in the human kingdom. However, zoos have some environmental disadvantages, ranging from species overpopulation to global warming.

See Related : How Similar is Human DNA to Other Animals

Negative Environmental Complications

People are always attracted to exotic animals such as grizzlies, lions, wolves, tigers, and alligators. The problem is that these large predators control the vast majority of the population of herbivorous animals in their domain. This can have huge negative effects on the environment in many ways. For example, if the number of lions is drastically reduced in an area, their prey will thrive.

An increase in the populations of herbivorous animals such as deer and buffalos isn’t good, especially not for the vegetation and ground cover.

Deforestation will be the next problem when animals such as moose, elks, and deer start eating everything, even young trees. This becomes a major blow to the biodiversity of the affected region.

Once the ground has no coverage, soil erosion will be the next step. When it rains, the topsoil gets washed away, exposing the land.

Lack of trees to rain will then lead to less and less vegetation and eventually draught in the area which will force the surviving animals to migrate to areas with better conditions.

The lack of enough vegetation will lead to global warming due to less carbon in the atmosphere. Climate change has become a very real threat for the next and even current generations.

See Related : Animals That Have Become Extinct in the Last 100 Years

W hat is a Zoo?

Deer's in Captivity

A zoological park is designed for conservation, study, and public display. The first modern one was opened in Paris, France, in 1793. Older menageries existed in Mesopotamia as far back as 2500 BCE.

The idea of conserving and breeding animals at risk of going extinct is great; the problem is that not all zoos live up to it. Most zoos don’t focus on the educational aspect of zoos; the animals are mainly kept for amusement.

What are some benefits of having zoos?

Animals have been going extinct for as long as there has been life on earth–any weakling or disadvantageous animals get wiped out. Zoological gardens have been working to help ensure that endangered species are given another chance to thrive over time.

Caring for the said animals, away from their predator, will protect them and give their species a chance to repopulate. Unlike in the wild, where these endangered species worry about staying safe, they get cared for in these breeding programs.

Students and the general public get to learn about different species of animals . This can lead to appreciating other animals and seeing them treated much better.

They are used to collect exotic pets from owners who are looking to get rid of them. This gives the poor pets a home and creates a revenue stream for the zoos.

See Related : Animals With the Best Sense of Smell

Is there hope for animals in zoos?

Zoological park associations were formed to keep zoo owners on their toes. Zoos are held to their word of conserving animals and releasing them back into the wild when ready.

An example of these associations is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) which represents over 240 businesses across the globe. The Zoological Association of America also operates in the United States .

These associations ensure that members treat their animals with a high standard of care and follow any guidelines they provide. Such as ensuring animals aren’t caged and treated less than they deserve. Sadly, most of these associations end up protecting the interests of their members and not the animals they should be protecting.

What animals should not be kept in zoos?

Keeping wild animals in zoos is controversial, and there is no definitive answer about which animals should or should not be kept in captivity. It is generally known that animals that require large territories to roam are highly intelligent and have complex social structures.

They should not be kept in zoos but should be in their natural habitats. For example, elephants, big cats, and primates are often cited as animals that do not thrive in zoo environments due to their need for space, social interaction, and mental stimulation.

What are the negative effects of zoos on animals?

Zoos are facilities that keep animals in captivity for public display and entertainment. The negative effects of zoos on animals include physical and psychological harm, limited space and social interaction, and increased risk of disease and premature death.

Studies have shown that zoo animals often exhibit abnormal behaviors such as pacing, self-mutilation, and aggression, which indicate stress and frustration caused by their confinement.

Is it morally wrong to keep animals in zoos?

Keeping animals in zoos is a topic that raises ethical concerns. While some argue that zoos help protect endangered species, others believe it is morally wrong to keep animals in captivity for human entertainment.

Additionally, studies have shown that zoo animals often suffer from stress, lack of proper care, and restricted living conditions.

Why should animals not be kept in zoos?

Keeping animals in zoos is confining wild animals in captivity for public exhibition. Animals should not be kept in zoos because it can lead to physical and psychological problems for the animals, such as increased stress and aggression, as well as decreased life expectancy.

Additionally, zoos often fail to provide animals with adequate space, nutrition, and socialization, which can further contribute to their poor health and well-being.

Why zoos should exist?

Zoos should exist because they are vital in conservation efforts and education. Zoos provide a haven for endangered species and help to prevent their extinction. Additionally, zoos offer a unique opportunity to learn about animals and there, promoting conservation and awareness.

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Are Zoos Immoral?

A guest opinion essay argues that modern zoos are harmful to the health and well-being of animals. Do you agree? Is it time to rethink the zoo, and perhaps even end them?

is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

By Jeremy Engle

Do you like going to the zoo? Do you have a favorite?

Have you ever stopped to consider the possible harmful effects zoos might have on the animals?

In “ Modern Zoos Are Not Worth the Moral Cost ,” Emma Marris, an environmental writer, asks the reader to reconsider the value of zoos and the effects of captivity on the animals we visit:

After being captives of the pandemic for more than a year, we have begun experiencing the pleasures of simple outings: dining al fresco, shopping with a friend, taking a stroll through the zoo. As we snap a selfie by the sea lions for the first time in so long, it seems worth asking, after our collective ordeal, whether our pleasure in seeing wild animals up close is worth the price of their captivity. Throughout history, men have accumulated large and fierce animals to advertise their might and prestige. Power-mad men from Henry III to Saddam Hussein’s son Uday to the drug kingpin Pablo Escobar to Charlemagne all tried to underscore their strength by keeping terrifying beasts captive. William Randolph Hearst created his own private zoo with lions, tigers, leopards and more at Hearst Castle. It is these boastful collections of animals, these autocratic menageries, from which the modern zoo, with its didactic plaques and $15 hot dogs, springs.

Ms. Marris describes how the “educational day out” model of zoos endured until the late 20th century, when zoos began actively rebranding themselves as serious contributors to conservation, functioning as “ambassadors” for their species and teaching humans to care about wildlife.

However, she writes, while species such as the Arabian oryx, the California condor and Black-footed ferrets were saved from extinction by the concerted efforts of zoos, these popular public institutions remain largely about entertainment and family outings:

A fine day out with the family might itself be justification enough for the existence of zoos if the zoo animals are all happy to be there. Alas, there’s plenty of heartbreaking evidence that many are not. In many modern zoos, animals are well cared for, healthy and probably, for many species, content. Zookeepers are not mustache-twirling villains. They are kind people, bonded to their charges and immersed in the culture of the zoo, in which they are the good guys. But many animals clearly show us that they do not enjoy captivity. When confined they rock, pull their hair and engage in other tics. Captive tigers pace back and forth, and in a 2014 study, researchers found that “the time devoted to pacing by a species in captivity is best predicted by the daily distances traveled in nature by the wild specimens.” It is almost as if they feel driven to patrol their territory, to hunt, to move, to walk a certain number of steps, as if they have a Fitbit in their brains. The researchers divided the odd behaviors of captive animals into two categories: “impulsive/compulsive behaviors,” including coprophagy (eating feces), regurgitation, self-biting and mutilation, exaggerated aggressiveness and infanticide, and “stereotypies,” which are endlessly repeated movements. Elephants bob their heads over and over. Chimps pull out their own hair. Giraffes endlessly flick their tongues. Bears and cats pace. Some studies have shown that as many as 80 percent of zoo carnivores, 64 percent of zoo chimps and 85 percent of zoo elephants have displayed compulsive behaviors or stereotypies. Elephants are particularly unhappy in zoos, given their great size, social nature and cognitive complexity. Many suffer from arthritis and other joint problems from standing on hard surfaces; elephants kept alone become desperately lonely; and all zoo elephants suffer mentally from being cooped up in tiny yards while their free-ranging cousins walk up to 50 miles a day. Zoo elephants tend to die young. At least 20 zoos in the United States have already ended their elephant exhibits in part because of ethical concerns about keeping the species captive.

Ms. Marris concludes her essay with some ways to reimagine and transform the zoo:

What if zoos stopped breeding all their animals, with the possible exception of any endangered species with a real chance of being released back into the wild? What if they sent all the animals that need really large areas or lots of freedom and socialization to refuges? With their apes, elephants, big cats, and other large and smart species gone, they could expand enclosures for the rest of the animals, concentrating on keeping them lavishly happy until their natural deaths. Eventually, the only animals on display would be a few ancient holdovers from the old menageries, animals in active conservation breeding programs and perhaps a few rescues. Such zoos might even be merged with sanctuaries, places that take wild animals that because of injury or a lifetime of captivity cannot live in the wild. Existing refuges often do allow visitors, but their facilities are really arranged for the animals, not for the people. These refuge-zoos could become places where animals live. Display would be incidental.

Students, read the entire article , then tell us:

Do you like going to the zoo? Do you have a favorite one? Tell us about a memorable experience you had at a zoo.

What impact have zoos had on you? Have they helped you to develop what some zoos call a “conservation ethic?” Do you look at the animals with a “sense of empathy for the individual animal, as well as the wild populations of that animal,” as Dan Ashe, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hopes? Have zoos made you care more about conservation or take any action to support it?

What is your reaction to Ms. Marris’s essay? Which details on the harmful effects of captivity on animals, such as the physical and emotional toll on elephants, stand out? What do they make you think or feel?

How persuasive is Ms. Marris’s argument? Are zoos immoral or wrong? Is our pleasure in seeing wild animals up close worth the price of their captivity? What do you see as the benefits and harms of zoos, both for the human visitors and the animals who live in them?

What do you think of Ms. Marris’s recommendations for transforming the zoo? Do you think her idea of the “refuge-zoo,” a place where animals live and displays are incidental, is a good one? What other ideas do you have to improve or reform the modern zoo?

Do you think you will visit zoos in the future? Why or why not?

Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column . Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

Jeremy Engle joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2018 after spending more than 20 years as a classroom humanities and documentary-making teacher, professional developer and curriculum designer working with students and teachers across the country. More about Jeremy Engle

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  • Sample Essays

In this IELTS Zoo Essay you have to discuss whether you think zoos are cruel and should be shut down or whether they are useful as they protect some wild animals.

Essays on zoos have appeared in the IELTS test before and this was a question that was recently in the test.

Some people think that zoos are all cruel and should be closed down. Others however believe that zoos can be useful in protecting wild animals.

Discuss both opinions and give your own opinion.

Understanding the Question

You must always read the question carefully and note if there is anything restricting the topic.

You have to discuss both sides of the argument and with this zoo essay question it would be very easy to read it and then simply write about the benefits and drawbacks of zoos.

But look at this bit carefully:

  • Others however believe that zoos can be useful in protecting wild animals .

One of the arguments is specifically about protecting animals. So when you discuss the second argument you must be careful not to just write generally about the advantage of zoos. 

You have to focus on how they may protect wild animals . So when you brainstorm your ideas for the zoo essay, you should be thinking about:

  • why animals need protecting and
  • how zoos can help with this 

is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

And in your other body paragraph you would need to explain why they are also seen as cruel. 

And of course you must remember to give your own opinion. In this essay, the author makes it clear at the beginning that they support the closing down of zoos. 

The opinion you decide on though is of course your choice.

Zoo Essay Sample

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own experience or knowledge.

Write at least 250 words.

Zoo Essay Model Answer

Zoos remain popular places for people to visit for entertainment and to learn about wild animals. Although some people are of the opinion that zoos can provide a sanctuary for endangered animals and so should be kept open, I believe that the cruelty that animals suffer outweighs this benefit, and that they should be shut down.

These days, animals are under threat from humans in many ways, seen for example in the way that their habitats are being destroyed through the cutting down of rain forests, or through poaching. Following on from this, the argument is that zoos can protect some of these animals that are under threat. The reason is that they are in a safe environment managed by trained staff who can ensure the animals are looked after and can produce offspring. There are examples of successes in this respect, such as with Pandas, which have been endangered for many years but have been protected.

However, there are more convincing arguments for why zoos should be shut down. Firstly, even though some species are under threat, there are lots of animals which do not fall into this category and who are there just for the entertainment of visitors. While it may be fun and educational to see them, animals are not meant to be caged, and their distress can often be seen in the way many of them pace back and forwards all day. Not only this, if the prime reason of zoos is to protect animals, this could be done in other environments such as wild life parks where the animals have more freedom.

In conclusion, animals should be protected but this does not have to be in zoos. Zoos are cruel to animals, not similar enough to their natural habitat, and they should be closed down. 

(299 Words)

Band scores are given for task response, coherence and cohesion, lexis (vocabulary) and grammatical range and accuracy. 

This zoo essay would get a good score for task response as it fully answers the question by discussing both opinions and giving a personal opinion. Ideas are also well explained, extended and supported. 

is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

It would get a good score for coherence and cohesion as it is organised coherently and logically and is easy to follow. The introduction introduces the topic then there is a thesis statement.

One body paragraph discusses one side of the argument, and the other discusses the other side. The second body paragraph is also the writers opinion, and this is summarised again in the conclusion

.There is some interesting vocabulary and phrases. For example:

  • sanctuary for endangered animals
  • under threat from humans
  • habitats are being destroyed
  • produce offspring
  • successes in this respect
  • not meant to be caged
  • natural habitat

There are also some good complex grammatical constructions and the grammar is precise. For example, the red words show that some of these are  adverbial clauses ,  noun clauses  and  relative clauses :

  • Although  some people are of the opinion  that  zoos can provide a sanctuary for endangered animals...
  • ...seen for example  in the way that  their habitats are being destroyed...
  • ...the argument is  that  zoos can protect some of these animals who are under threat.
  • ...trained staff  who  can ensure the animals are looked after...
  • Pandas  who  have been endangered...
  • ... even though  some species are under threat...
  • ... While  it may be fun and educational...

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Are Zoos Ethical? Arguments for and Against Keeping Animals in Zoos

Zoos, if done right, could be a good thing for the animals and the public—yet many so-called zoos get it terribly wrong.

is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

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A Brief History of Zoos

Arguments for zoos, arguments against zoos, the last word on zoos.

A zoo is a place where captive animals are put on display for humans to see. While early zoos (shortened from zoological parks) concentrated on displaying as many unusual creatures as possible—often in small, cramped conditions—the focus of most modern zoos is conservation and education. While zoo advocates and conservationists argue that zoos save endangered species and educate the public, many  animal rights activists believe the cost of confining animals outweighs the benefits, and that the violation of the rights of individual animals—even in efforts to fend off extinction—cannot be justified.

Humans have kept wild animals for thousands of years. The first efforts to keep wild animals for non-utilitarian uses began about 2500 BCE, when rulers in Mesopotamia, Egypt kept collections in enclosed pens.  Modern zoos began to evolve during the 18th century and the Age of Enlightenment, when scientific interest in zoology, as well as the study of animal behavior and anatomy, came to the fore.

Early zoos were a dismal affair. Animals were kept in small enclosures with little if any, greenery. With a scant understanding of what the various animals needed, many perished relatively quickly. In accredited U.S. zoos (and elsewhere) things are better now, fortunately. Primates, for example, have gone from barren cages with little furniture to naturalistic and sometimes semi-free-ranging designs. But is it enough?

  • By bringing people and animals together, zoos educate the public and foster an appreciation of other species.
  • Zoos save endangered species by bringing them into a safe environment, where they are protected from poachers, habitat loss, starvation, and predators.
  • Many zoos have breeding programs for endangered species. In the wild, these individuals might have trouble finding mates and breeding, and species could become extinct.
  • Some zoos have conservation programs around the world that use the zoo's expertise and funding to help protect wildlife against poaching and other threats.
  • Reputable zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are held to high standards for the treatment of their resident animals. According to AZA, its accreditation guarantees that the organization has undergone strict evaluation by recognized experts to ensure the highest standards of "animal management and care, including living environments, social groupings, health, and nutrition."
  • A good zoo provides an enriched habitat in which the animals are never bored, are well cared for, and have plenty of space.
  • Seeing an animal in person is a much more personal and more memorable experience than seeing that animal in a nature documentary and is more likely to foster an empathetic attitude toward animals.
  • Some zoos help rehabilitate wildlife and take in exotic pets that people no longer want or are no longer able to care for.
  • Both accredited and unaccredited animal exhibitors are regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act, which establishes standards for animal care.
  • From an animal rights standpoint, humans do not have a right to breed, capture, and confine other animals— even if those species are endangered . Being a member of an endangered species doesn't mean the individual animals should be afforded fewer rights.
  • Animals in captivity suffer from boredom, stress, and confinement. No pen—no matter how humane—or drive-through safari can compare to the freedom of the wild.
  • Intergenerational bonds are broken when individuals are sold or traded to other zoos.
  • Baby animals bring in visitors and money, but this incentive to breed new baby animals leads to overpopulation. Surplus animals are sold not only to other zoos, but also to circuses and hunting facilities. Some zoos simply kill their surplus animals outright.
  • Some captive breeding programs do not release animals back into the wild. The offspring may be forever part of the chain of zoos, circuses, and petting zoos.
  • Removing individual specimens from the wild further endangers the wild population because the remaining individuals will be less genetically diverse and may have greater difficulty finding mates. Maintaining species diversity within captive breeding facilities is also a challenge. 
  • If people want to see wild animals in real life, they can observe wildlife in the wild or visit a sanctuary. (A true sanctuary does not buy, sell, or breed animals, but instead takes in unwanted exotic pets, surplus animals from zoos, or injured wildlife that can no longer survive in the wild.)
  • The federal Animal Welfare Act establishes only the most minimal standards for cage size, shelter, health care, ventilation, fencing, food, and water. For example, enclosures must provide "sufficient space to allow each animal to make normal postural and social adjustments with adequate freedom of movement. Inadequate space may be indicated by evidence of malnutrition, poor condition, debility, stress, or abnormal behavior patterns." Violations often result in a slap on the wrist and the exhibitor is given a deadline to correct the violation. Even a long history of inadequate care and AWA violations, such as the history of Tony the Truck Stop Tiger, does not necessarily ensure abused animals will be freed.
  • Animals sometimes escape their enclosures, endangering themselves as well as people. Likewise, people ignore warnings or accidentally get too close to animals, leading to horrific outcomes. For example, Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, was shot in 2016 when a toddler accidentally fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. While the child survived and was not badly injured, the gorilla was killed outright.
  • Petting zoos have been linked with numerous incidents of diseases including E. coli infection, cryptosporidiosis, salmonellosis, and dermatomycosis (ringworm).

In making a case for or against zoos, both sides argue that they're saving animals. Whether or not zoos benefit the animal community, they certainly do make money. As long as there is demand for them, zoos will continue to exist.

Since zoos are likely an inevitability, the best way to move forward is to ensure that zoo conditions are the best possible for the animals that live in captivity and that individuals who violate animal care health and safety sanctions are not only duly punished but denied any future access to animals.

One day we may look back at zoos and marvel at their barbarity. Or, one day we may look back at zoos and be grateful for the species they saved from extinction. Of these two scenarios, only time will tell.

Hosey, Geoff, et al. Zoo Animals: Behaviour, Management, and Welfare . Oxford University Press. 2013.

Hosey, G. (2023). The History of Primates in Zoos . In: Robinson, L.M., Weiss, A. (eds) Nonhuman Primate Welfare. Springer, Cham.

“ Species Survival Plan Programs .” Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

“ Accreditation Basics .” Association of Zoos & Aquariums .

“ Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations .” U.S. Department of Agriculture .

Meagher, Rebecca K., Georgia J. Mason. “ Environmental Enrichment Reduces Signs of Boredom in Caged Mink .” PLoS ONE , vol. 7, 2012, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049180

Kleiman, Devra G., et al. Wild Mammals In Captivity: Principles And Techniques For Zoo Management, Second Edition . University of Chicago Press. 2010.

Gunasekera, Crystal Allen. “ The Ethics of Killing “Surplus” Zoo Animals .” Journal of Animal Ethics , vol. 8, 2018, doi:10.5406/janimalethics.8.1.0093

Brichieri-Colombi, Typhenn A., et al. “ Limited Contributions of Released Animals from Zoos to North American Conservation Translocations .” Conservation Biology , vol. 33, 2019, pp. 33-39., doi:10.1111/cobi.13160

Krasnec, Michelle O., et al. “ Mating Systems in Sexual Animals .” Nature Education Knowledge, vol. 3, no. 10, 2012, p. 72.

“ 9 CFR § 3.128 - Space Requirements .” Cornell University Legal Information Institute .

“ Animal Welfare Act Enforcement .” U.S. Department of Agriculture .

Conrad, Cheyenne C. Conrad et al. " Farm Fairs and Petting Zoos: A Review of Animal Contact as a Source of Zoonotic Enteric Disease ." Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, vol. 14, 2017, pp. 59-73., doi:10.1089/fpd.2016.2185

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Should Animals Be Kept in Zoos?

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is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

Update: Our award-winning video series Above the Noise took a fresh look at the pros and cons of zoos.  Students can watch the video to get a primer on the facts then write their own responses on KQED Learn.

This post is part of KQED’s Do Now U project. Do Now U is a weekly activity for students and the public to engage and respond to current issues using social media. Do Now U aims to build civic engagement and digital literacy for learners of all ages. This post was written by Sophia Buscher and Victoria Staudenraus , students at St. Mary’s College of California , in partnership with the Lindsay Wildlife Experience .

Featured Media Resource: VIDEO:  Zoo Conservation Raise Debate  (CNN) Hear opposing thoughts from a field biologist at the University of York and the president of the Born Free Foundation about keeping animals in zoos for conservation purposes.

Do you think animals should be kept in zoos?   #DoNowUZoo

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Learn More about Animals in Zoos

Although wild animals have been held captive for thousands of years, the first modern zoo opened in 1763 in Paris, France. As people became more interested in science and natural history, zoos served as a way to display and study animals. Today, zoos provide opportunities for public education and entertainment, as well as scientific research and conservation. There are about 2,800 licensed animal exhibitors throughout the U.S., which include zoos, circuses, petting farms, wildlife and marine mammal parks, and some sanctuaries. Out of these, 233 are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The AZA “ holds animal exhibitors to high standards of animal care, science and conservation ” in the United States and all over the world. Even though many animal exhibitors are still considered zoos, they have not met the requirements of the AZA and, therefore, have not been accredited.

Proponents of zoos point to the fact that they educate the general public, are beneficial for scientific research, and work toward conservation efforts and captive breeding. At the San Francisco Zoo, there are educational programs for children ages 1-17. From camps, to mobile programs that bring smaller animals to schools, to family activities that look at local wildlife near the zoo, the public is able to get hands-on education about animals they may not be able to meet and learn about otherwise. The Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, California, offers similar experiences to connect locals with wildlife and educate people on how they can do small things to help benefit wildlife in urban areas. Zoos can also be beneficial for scientific research. Studies are sometimes better able to be completed in zoos because of the controlled environment of a zoo. Lastly, zoos help endangered populations by using captive breeding and release. The AZA’s Species Survival Plan Program is a long-term plan that incorporates conservation breeding, preservation of habitat, education and research to support the survival of threatened and endangered species. Many zoos also work on local conservation efforts to maintain local wildlife populations.

On the other hand, many would say that wild animals should not be held in captivity. It has been argued that captive breeding isn’t always effective, zoos do not provide natural habitats, and that zoos put unnecessary stress on animals. Some studies have shown that reintroduced animals have high mortality rates because they are poorly adapted and lack the skills needed to survive in the wild. Since an animal’s well-being is dependent on their environment, some contend that zoos do not provide healthy habitats for animals. Enclosures–even when designed to mimic an animal’s natural habitat–are still not really natural. And, zoos can’t really provide the space that large or wide-ranging animals, like elephants, are used to. Due in part to unnatural enclosures, animals in zoos are under stress . Animals are often bored and, as a result, some become aggressive and can lash out at other animals or zookeepers. In a study done on 40 chimpanzees in six different zoos, all of the chimps exhibited behavior their counterparts in nature did not. Some of these behaviors included rocking back and forth, tearing out their hair, self-mutilation, and the drinking of their urine. This behavior is not seen in their wild counterparts suggesting that being in the zoo is causing these chimps to develop mental illness due to stress.

What do you think? Should animals be kept in zoos? Why or why not?

More Resources

Video: DNews The Pros & Cons of Zoos Hear about some of the benefits zoos and some of negative effects that they have on animals.

Video: BBC Horizon: Should We Close Our Zoos? This clip briefly examines the history of zoos, and questions experts and professionals about keeping animals in small enclosures.

Audio: WNYC A Passionate Call to Leave Animals Alone and Zoos Behind Not everyone enjoys their visit to the zoo. Hear why Tim Zimmerman believes we should reconsider our arguments for keeping zoos open. He offers an alternative to traditional zoos that can make both animals and human visitors happy.

Article: The Washington Post At Zoos, Not Every Resident is a Spring Chicken From protecting elderly animals to preserving endangered species, read more about the benefits of holding animals in captivity.

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There is a moral argument for keeping great apes in zoos

<p><em>Michael Gwyther Jones/Flickr</em></p>

Michael Gwyther Jones/Flickr

by Richard Moore   + BIO

is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

I get apprehensive whenever someone asks me about my job. I’m a philosopher who works on the question of how language evolved, I reply. If they probe any further, I tell them that I work with the great apes at Leipzig zoo. But some people, I’ve discovered, have big problems with zoos.

Plenty of philosophers and primatologists agree with them. Even the best zoos force animals to live in confined spaces, they say , which means the animals must be bored and stressed from being watched all the time. Other critics claim that zoos are wrong even if the creatures aren’t suffering, because being held captive for human entertainment impugns their dignity. Such places ‘are for us rather than for animals’, the philosopher Dale Jamieson has written , and ‘they do little to help the animals we are driving to extinction’.

But I want to defend the value of zoos. Yes, some of them should certainly be closed. We’ve seen those terrible videos of solitary apes or tigers stalking barren cages in shopping malls in Thailand or China. However, animals have a good quality of life in many zoos, and there’s a strong moral case for why these institutions ought to exist. I’ve come to this view after working with great apes, and it might not extend to all species equally. However, since great apes are both cognitively sophisticated and human-like in their behaviour, they offer a strong test case for evaluating the morality of zoos in general.

The research my colleagues and I conduct isn’t harmful to the animals and, if it goes well, it will help us get a better grasp on the cognitive differences between humans and apes. For example, we did a study with pairs of orangutans in which we tested their ability to communicate and cooperate to get rewards. We hid a banana pellet so that one orangutan could see the food but couldn’t reach it. The other orangutan could release a sliding door and push the pellet through to her partner, but wasn’t able to take it for herself. They did okay (but not great) when playing with me, and they mostly ignored each other when playing together. We then performed a similar set of studies with human two-year-olds. Compared with the apes, the two-year-olds were very good at getting the reward (stickers) when they played with an adult.

Taken together, these studies tell us something about human evolution. Unlike apes, humans are good at pooling their talents to achieve what they can’t do alone. It’s not that the apes don’t care about getting the food – they got frustrated with one another when things were going wrong, and one orangutan in particular would turn his back and sulk. However, unlike humans, they don’t seem to be able to harness this frustration to push themselves to do better.

The value of research aside, there’s an argument for zoos on the grounds of animal welfare. In the best zoos, such as Leipzig, great apes live in spacious enclosures modelled on their natural habitats, and are looked after by zookeepers who care about them deeply. Large jungle gyms keep them stimulated and stave off boredom; they’re also kept busy with ‘enrichment’ puzzles, which they can unlock with tools to get food. Zoos recognised by the two main accrediting bodies in Europe and the United States are rigorously vetted and required to take part in education and conservation programmes. And there’s no solid evidence that apes living in well-designed enclosures get stressed or disturbed by human observation.

Of course, zoos can’t provide their animals with conditions such as those in an untouched forest. But for the great apes in captivity, there’s rarely a viable alternative. There are estimated to be more than 4,000 great apes living in zoos worldwide. Most of the regions where they are found in the wild – orangutans in Indonesia, chimpanzees and gorillas in Central and West Africa, bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – are ravaged by habitat loss, civil war, hunting and disease. As few as 880 remaining mountain gorillas survive, in two small groups in the eastern reaches of the DRC, while orangutan habitats have declined 80 per cent in the past 20 years. While some conservationists dream of rehoming zoo apes in the wild, these vanishing forests mean that it’s rarely feasible. The orangutans in Leipzig are certainly better off than they would be trying to survive in forests razed to make way for palm-oil plantations.

Since zoo apes cannot be returned to their natural environments, specialised sanctuaries are another option. But these require large plots of land that are both safe and uninhabited by existing populations, and such locations are scarce. As things stand, sanctuaries are already struggling to survive because they’re almost exclusively dependent on charitable donations. And most of them are full. In Africa and Indonesia, inhabitants are typically orphans that have been taken from the forest by hunters or palm-oil workers, who kill larger apes and kidnap the babies to sell or keep as pets. Elsewhere, sanctuaries are overflowing with retired lab apes or rescued pets. These institutions lack the capacity to accommodate the thousands of apes currently living in zoos, let alone the money that would be needed to support them.

Given the obstacles and the great expense of rehoming apes, very few places try to do so. Damian Aspinall of Howletts Wild Animal Park in England leads one of the few programmes that release gorillas back into the wild, by taking them to a protected reserve in Gabon. His intentions are heroic and hopefully the plan will succeed. Some gorillas have resettled well. But the results so far have been mixed; in 2014, five members of a family of 11 were found dead within a month of their release. We also don’t really know whether zoo-born apes possess the skills they need to survive, including the ability to retrieve different local foods, and knowledge of edible plants. Young apes learn these skills in the wild by watching the knowledgeable adults around them – but that’s an opportunity that creatures in captivity simply don’t have.

Now, all of this isn’t necessarily an ethical argument for continuing to breed apes in zoos. You might argue that if we can’t save the apes already in captivity, we should at least end breeding programmes and let the existing populations die out. However, captive breeding helps preserve the genetic diversity of endangered species. Moreover, research shows that visiting zoos makes people more likely to support conservation efforts – an effect that’s amplified by more naturalistic enclosures. So first-person encounters in zoos serve to educate visitors about the incredible lives animals lead, and to raise money for wild conservation programmes.

Allowing the ape populations in zoos to wither assumes – without justification – that their current lives are so bad as to be not worth living. It also risks inflicting harm. Boredom is a real risk for zoo animals, and it’s widely believed (although not yet scientifically established) that the presence of infants brings both interest and happiness to the families. Mixed-aged groups create collective dynamics that more closely resemble those in the wild. If we care about the welfare of captive apes, we should allow them to breed – at least in controlled ways.

One day, the prospect of returning captive apes to their natural habitats or housing them in well-funded, spacious sanctuaries might be realistic. Currently, it is not. Instead of condemning zoos, we should dedicate our efforts to supporting them: to pushing bad zoos to reform or close; to funding more research into the welfare of captive animals; and to encouraging all zoos to strive to do more for their inhabitants. That way, perhaps, I will no longer need to shy away from telling strangers what I do.

is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

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Catherine Stinson

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For a child, being carefree is intrinsic to a well-lived life

Luara Ferracioli

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Sooner or later we all face death. Will a sense of meaning help us?

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is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

Why Are Zoos Bad? Why Animals Should not be Kept in Zoos?

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Alexander Laybourne

March 7, 2023.

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To many people, a trip to the zoo is a fun day out for the family. Visiting a zoo is a chance for many people to see exotic animals they would otherwise be unable to see.

However, few people stop and actively consider why zoos are bad.

In this article, we will take a look at why zoos teach children the wrong lesson about captive animals.

As a late Gen-Xer-cum-early-Millenial, my childhood was rich with trips to visit zoos. However, looking back as an adult with a world-savvy eye, there is far more to animal captivity than meets the eye.

So Why are Zoos Bad?

While zoos can definitely be exciting places for families to visit, the fact remains that they are bad for animals. In most cases, animals in zoos lead very unhappy lives.

We say zoos are bad because animals are forced to live in unnatural, stressful, boring environments, leading to a lack of mental and physical stimulation. They are removed from their natural habitats and confined to small limited spaces and often forced to perform tricks or entertain visitors.

Zookeepers also often may neglect their healthcare needs. As a result, many animals at zoos may die prematurely from stress or illness.

You can surely help these animals by refusing to visit zoos and instead supporting sanctuaries where animals live in natural habitats.

What Are the Negative Effects of Zoos on Animals?

There are a great many negative effects of zoos on animals.When we visit zoos, we can see they often go to great lengths in order to recreate the animals’ natural habitats.

However, this is often not much more than an illusion for the customer. A small exhibit is never going to truly capture the vastness of the open world.

bad animals

The common negative effects of zoos on animals are listed below.

  • Animals often suffer in captivity
  • Animals are removed from their natural habitats.
  • Many zoos fail to provide the required minimum standard of care
  • Healthy animals are killed
  • Zoos don’t replicate animals’ natural habitats
  • Zoos teach children the wrong lessons
  • Zoos teach people that animal captivity is acceptable
  • Animal protection laws are not strong enough
  • Zoos are largely unethical
  • Many visitors disturb and disrespect the animals
  • Zoo animals are often drugged to be kept calm
  • Euthanasia practices
  • Zoos often have insufficient knowledge of animals.
  • Increased risk of disease
  • Zoos contribute to the exotic pet trade

What’s Bad About Zoos Overall?

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of why keeping animals in zoos is bad:

Animals Often Suffer in Captivity

why are zoos bad

Wild animals often suffer in captivity because they were meant to be free. Zoo owners go to great lengths to build enclosures that have a wild aesthetic and give paying visitors a taste of the wild world.

However, the truth is that no enclosure can come close to matching the vastness of an animal’s natural environment. Animals in zoos can sense this, and over time their confinement can lead to worrying behavioral changes.

Animals Are Removed From Their Natural Habitats

Many zoo animals are forcefully removed from their natural habitat. This relocation alone can come as a large shock and wreak havoc on the animals’ mental health. For some animals in zoos, the shock of their relocation alone can be fatal.

In addition, when animals are removed from their natural habitats, they are also removed from their family structure and social hierarchy. For many wild animals, this is a vital part of their life, and they can struggle to redefine their footing.

Once again, a change of this magnitude can cause captive animals to exhibit changing behaviors, which include self-destructive acts and unrelenting restlessness.

Many Zoos Fail To Provide the Required Minimum Standard of Care

why zoos are bad

The required standard of care for wild animals, such as those held by zoos, is wide-ranging and nigh on impossible for zoos to provide.

Outside of providing sufficient space to allow natural behaviors to develop, issues such as climate, diet, and the formation of a social hierarchy – where appropriate – make running a zoo a difficult task.

Even the best zoological park cannot fully capture the wild, and many smaller zoos fail to take effective measures to ensure the health and well-being of their animals.

A study by Bristol University found that many British zoos fail to provide animals with the required minimum standard of care.

Healthy Animals Are Killed

Running a successful zoo is about drawing in visitors as much as it is caring for animals. As a result, many zoos breed animals. Unfortunately, this is done under the guise of conservation and to protect endangered species .

However, only a certain number of each species are really needed, and so should breeding result in a sharp increase, these numbers are reduced via various methods.

Healthy animals in zoos are killed because they are not needed. In addition, baby animals that are deemed excess to requirements find their way into black market sales. This support of the exotic pet trade also results in a lot of preventable animal deaths .

Zoos Don’t Replicate Animals’ Natural Habitats

animals in zoos

Many zoos create attractive enclosures to attract visitors. However, the vast majority don’t do enough to accurately replace an animal’s natural habitat. There is more to natural environments than just looks.

Most zoos or animal sanctuaries don’t have the space or the facilities to truly recreate the wild. Especially not for the broad spectrum of species they have in their park.

Animals need physical stimulation and a level of interaction with nature that we, as humans, cannot understand, let alone interpret and recreate.

Zoos Teach Children the Wrong Lessons

Many zoos give children the wrong lessons about wild animals and how to protect animals. Many zoos and aquariums offer behind-the-scenes tours and informative talks on animal welfare.

These tours often pretend to talk about their animals’ natural habitat and inclinations. However, they are really just teaching children about caring for animals in captivity.

Children leave most zoos with a misconception about how animals behave in the wild and what it takes to truly care for endangered animals.

Zoos Teach People That Animal Captivity Is Acceptable

why zoos should be banned

In normalizing captivity zoos, and teaching animals to perform tricks for human entertainment, zoos and animal sanctuaries are spreading the message that animal captivity to normal, healthy, and fully acceptable.

The truth is there is a vast difference between genuine conservation efforts and endangered species protection and running a zoo. Many zoos claim to be helping preserve dwindling populations.

This may be true to some extent; however, many zoos are running breeding programs for their own benefit and have no interest in releasing their animals back into the wild.

Animal Protection Laws Are Not Strong Enough

Existing animal protection laws do not actually consider the true ramifications of captivity. Many animals in zoos are not used to confinement. Their natural habitat extends far beyond anything captivity zoos could provide.

For example, Orcas are migratory animals with a vast range. Being placed into a small tank, away from their family units, might not break existing animal protection laws.

zoos should be banned

The same applies to elephants. In zoos, elephants are often given a small outside enclosure and an internal ‘house.’ This is nowhere near enough space to provide an elephant with a life comparable to that of its wild counterparts.

However, that does not stop the silent damage that captivity delivers to such roaming animal species.

Zoos Are Largely Unethical

At the end of the day, Zoos are largely unethical places that are built under the pretense of habitat conservation but really are there to earn money and entertain people who want to be able to say they saw real-life wild animals.

The truth is that zoos are a prison for animals. They are contained in small spaces, often made docile through drugs and other medications, and slowly strip away all autonomy and freedom from all animals.

Most animals are taught to perform tricks and go against the grain of nature purely for human entertainment.

Zoos often do more harm than good, creating unnatural environments that look realistic enough to make any potential return to the wild all but impossible.

Many Visitors Disturb and Disrespect the Animals

wild animals in the zoo

Many visitors will disturb and disrespect the animals in a zoo simply because they feel as though they are owed a performance of some sort. They bought tickets, and the wild creatures should behave accordingly.

When in their natural environments, wild animals are not used to being confronted by humans. However, in a zoo, the boundaries between the wild and captivity are rearranged.

Visitors will hammer on the glass or clamor around an animal enclosure, calling and shouting for the creature to perform for their pleasure.

Zoo Animals Are Often Drugged To Be Kept Calm

Animals in captivity can struggle to adapt to their new environment. Animals begin to display erratic behaviors, self-mutilation, and an inability to settle.

Many zoos will then resort to drugging animals in order to keep them docile and ‘normal’ for the pleasure of the viewing public. Drugs given to animals include sedatives and antipsychotic drugs.

Euthanasia Practices

hurt animal

An animal’s worth is only equal to the attraction it offers to visitors. Zoos are expensive to run, often have a very tight budget, and cannot afford to maintain and support animals that do not ‘pull their weight’ in terms of attraction.

Once an animal has served its purpose, many zoos will either sell them or euthanize them.

Zoos also have the power to euthanize their animals when they themselves deem it permissible.

If an animal cannot be given sufficient space or is suffering from stress and not behaving as expected, the zoo is within its right to kill the animal(s).

Zoos Often Have Insufficient Knowledge of Animals

Zoo keepers are often trained and specialize in a particular breed or species. However, the truth remains that zoos often have insufficient knowledge of the animals they are housing.

It is not possible to have zookeepers versed in a detailed understanding of every single species.

zoo cages

Instead, they will hire generalists with a degree of knowledge specificity and run with that. This goes to the detriment of the animals in zoos and puts them at risk of receiving inadequate care.

Increased Risk of Disease

Zoos are home to many animals. Non-native animals are held in conditions that vary greatly from what they are used to living in. This alone increases the risk of disease, as animals are exposed to viruses they have never encountered before.

When factoring in the number of zoos breeding animals and the risk posed to baby animals, the change of disease skyrockets further.

There have also been reported cases of zoos not properly disposing of dead bodies when animals die on their premises. Some surplus animals or injured animals are even fed to predators as a means of life-cycle maintenance.

There is no end to the risk of cross-contamination and disease spread, especially when considering the fact that lots of zoos fail to provide the correct standard of care.

Zoos Contribute to the Exotic Pet Trade

zoos bad for animals

When zoos find themselves with surplus animals, they need to find ways to reduce their numbers. One way that is rarely documented is the sale of other animals into the exotic pet trade.

Private individuals with the financial means use their money to procure rare or exotic animals from zoos to add to their own private collections. The sale of excess animals to traveling roadside zoos is another big problem.

What Are the Better Alternatives to Zoos?

The better alternatives to zoos are the options that don’t result in animals being held in conditions that are unsuitable and forced to live in natural environments.

Most people visit the zoo to see the big draw animals. Elephants, lions , tigers, rhinos, and such. All of these animals are well studied and have a plethora of documentaries and video footage of them in the wild.

Watching these is a much healthier and more educational way to learn about wild animals than visiting a local zoo.

In addition, a costlier but more educational option is to make arrangements to view animals in the wild. Nature reserves, bird watching, going on a safari. All of these options afford you a close view of nature exactly as it was intended.

Final Thoughts

We’ve discussed the reasons and can surely all now answer the question of why are zoos bad. The real question is, how can we change things?

Zoos are a part of culture across the world. If you go on holiday to any major destination, the chances are high that there will be at least one zoo and/or one aquarium nearby.

Personally speaking, I’ve been to zoos in Sydney, Australia, and all over the UK. I’ve been to zoos and aquariums in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Vancouver Island, not to mention those in the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

However, it does not change the fundamental fact that as the world changes, we must also become more aware of the darker side of such animal sanctuaries.

Will we ever see all zoos closed down? No, most likely not. However, through education and informative motions for change, we can make change the way zoos are run.

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Should Animals Be Kept In Zoos (Argumentative Essay)

Should animals be kept in zoos.

The debate of whether or not confining of animals is right in zoos is a popular one that attracts both opponents and proponents. The increased interests in science and natural history saw the introduction of zoos in 1763, which facilitated up close animal studies and would provide a chance for entertaining and educating the public. Nevertheless, confining the animals into small spaces in unnatural habitats, the constant staring from people and loss of their freedom makes zoos the worst homes for animals.

Zoos provide unnatural habitats for the animals. Animals are naturally born and bred to live and die in wilderness habitats. However, despite the numerous efforts and good intentions by zoo management, it is impossible to provide the perfect environment for various animals. For instance, animals like the wilder beasts live in groups that migrate over long distances while elephants on average walk for over 50 km a day in packs. However, zoos can only provide minimal acres of land for the animals to walk about thereby making the environments unnatural and uncomfortable for the animals.

Zoos are a premise of captivity for animals that makes them crazy. Imprisoning of animals in small cages housed in poorly managed zoos that fail to meet the necessary standards, averts them from behaving naturally. As a result, suffer from zoochosis condition, which elicits stress, strange behavior of hurting themselves due to frustration and boredom; they become inactive and increasingly pace around. Moreover, the animals adopt aggressive behavior that results in them lashing out and injuring or killing people.

Zoos are not educational. Zoos operate on the premise that they provide an opportunity for the public to learn about animals. However, this is untrue, as keeping animals in confined and unnatural environments tend to alter their natural behavior, character, and responses. Thus, persons visiting the zoos observe the altered behavior marred by boredom, stress, and loneliness. Moreover, keeping animals in zoos teach people that it is okay to lock up and make animals miserable for their personal gain. Therefore, by gaining pleasure and entertainment from making animals suffer is a horrible lesson to learn.

Proponents of keeping animals in zoos argue that zoos offer the best forms of protection for animals. According to them, animals receive protection from poaching and predators that are out to kill them. Additionally, by engaging in breeding programs, zoos believe they protect various species from becoming extinct, therefore, making them positive institutions to exist. However, this is untrue as some zoos keep the animals in deplorable environments whey they lack food and adequate medical care. Moreover, based on research, endangered animals living in zoos are only about five species and only a few species undergo breeding.

Proponents also believe that zoos provide the opportunity for people to see a wide array of animals while benefiting children with lessons about the environment and animals. Nevertheless, this is not the case as zoos only house few species of animals as compared to those an individual can observe in the wild. Also, zoos expose animals to neglect and stress that alter their behavior hence impeding true learning for children.

In conclusion, animals just as humans enjoy rights to freedom, protection from abuse, stress, neglect and lack of privacy. There is no denying that zoo violates all these rights by introducing them to unnatural habitats and caging the animals. Hence, in promoting health and happiness of the animals, animals should not be kept in zoos.

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is it wrong to keep animals in zoos essay

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Zoos are hugely popular attractions for adults and children alike. But are they actually a good thing?

Critics of zoos would argue that animals often suffer physically and mentally by being enclosed. Even the best artificial environments can't come close to matching the space, diversity, and freedom that animals have in their natural habitats. This deprivation causes many zoo animals to become stressed or mentally ill. Capturing animals in the wild also causes much suffering by splitting up families. Some zoos make animals behave unnaturally: for example, marine parks often force dolphins and whales to perform tricks. These mammals may die decades earlier than their wild relatives, and some even try to commit suicide.

On the other hand, by bringing people and animals together, zoos have the potential to educate the public about conservation issues and inspire people to protect animals and their habitats. Some zoos provide a safe environment for animals which have been mistreated in circuses, or pets which have been abandoned. Zoos also carry out important research into subjects like animal behaviour and how to treat illnesses.

One of the most important modern functions of zoos is supporting international breeding programmes, particularly for endangered species. In the wild, some of the rarest species have difficulty in finding mates and breeding, and they might also be threatened by poachers, loss of their habitat and predators. A good zoo will enable these species to live and breed in a secure environment. In addition, as numbers of some wild species drop, there is an increased danger of populations becoming too genetically similar. Breeding programmes provide a safeguard: zoo-bred animals can be released into the wild to increase genetic diversity.

However, opponents of zoos say that the vast majority of captive breeding programmes do not release animals back into the wild. Surplus animals are sold not only to other zoos but also to circuses or hunting ranches in the US or South Africa, where some people are willing to pay a lot of money for the chance to kill an animal in a fenced enclosure. Often, these animals are familiar with humans and have very little chance of escaping.

So, are zoos good for animals or not? Perhaps it all depends on how well individual zoos are managed, and the benefits of zoos can surely outweigh their harmful effects. However, it is understandable that many people believe imprisoning animals for any reason is simply wrong.

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Is it ethical to keep animals in zoos?

By Bridget M. Kuehn


Is the idea of the zoo as an ark archaic? Are zoos exploiting animals for profit? Are they prisons for wild animals? Does the need for species conservation outweigh the costs to individual animal welfare? These are some of the question zoos face as they try to respond to the criticism from animal rights groups and justify their existence to a public increasingly concerned about the welfare of captive animals.

Michael Hutchins, PhD, director and William Conway Chair of the Department of Conservation and Science for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, addressed these questions in his presentation "In defense of zoos and aquariums: The ethical basis for keeping wild animals in captivity" at the 2002 AVMA Animal Welfare Forum in Milwaukee Oct.11. The forum was co-sponsored by the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

According to Dr. Hutchins, one of the problems reputable zoos and aquariums face is guilt by association. He explained that there are really two kinds of zoos: AZA-accredited zoos, and zoos that don't meet AZA standards. Of the 2,400 animal exhibitors licensed by the Department of Agriculture, fewer than 10 percent meet AZA standards for accreditation, Dr. Hutchins said.

A question of ethics

Despite the high standards of AZA zoos and aquariums, some individuals object to zoos on an ethical basis.

Some people believe that animals have an intrinsic right to liberty and, therefore they conclude all zoos are inherently wrong, Dr. Hutchins said. Others are concerned that living in a zoo diminishes animals' quality of life, that captive breeding is of limited value, or that entertainment is not a sufficient justification for keeping animals in captivity.

To satisfy these concerns, zoos and aquariums have to weigh the costs and benefits.

"The central question we need to answer as caring people is: do the benefits of accredited zoos to society outweigh cost to individual animal welfare?" Hutchins said.

The primary benefits zoos provide to society are education and conservation of species and habitats, he said.

"I think the central ethical justification for zoos and aquariums in the modern world is their commitment to conservation," Dr. Hutchins said.

He explained that, during the past decade, zoos have shifted their focus from preserving species through captive breeding programs to preserving habitats and species in the wild.

Zoos support conservation by educating the public, raising money for conservation programs, developing technology that can be used to track wild populations, conducting scientific research, advancing veterinary medicine, and developing animal handling techniques.

By studying animals in captivity and applying that knowledge to their husbandry, zoos can provide valuable and practical information that may be difficult or impossible to gather in the wild.

"We need to know about the biology of animals to conserve," Dr. Hutchins said.

Zoos also help by participating in collaborative efforts with other zoos and conservation groups, or directly supporting a wildlife reserve by contributing expertise, training, funding, and other resources.

The AZA tracks the conservation efforts of member zoos with biennial reports on conservation science. According to the most recent report, AZA members participated in or supported 1,400 field conservation projects worldwide, and over 300 projects in North America between 1999 and 2000.

Putting welf​are first

Conservation alone is not enough to justify the existence of zoos, Dr. Hutchins said, "A strong commitment to individual animal welfare is equally important."

To improve animal welfare, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums must ensure quality care, promote natural behaviors and natural environments, assess and improve their training and education programs, and address the problem of surplus animals, Dr. Hutchins said. They also must reach out to nonaccredited zoos and promote high-quality care for all captive animals, he said.

The AZA is taking a number of steps to promote improved animal welfare at accredited and nonaccredited zoos and aquariums, including:

  • Developing species-specific resource manuals and standards for animal care
  • Requiring AZA zoos and aquariums to develop and implement enrichment programs.
  • Training USDA-APHIS inspectors
  • Lobbying the government for more funding for APHIS
  • Reducing the number of surplus animals by giving "do not breed" recommendations
  • Developing a system to track animals and setting policies that forbid the transfer of animals to substandard facilities and hunting ranches

Outreach to substandard zoos has been a priority; in fact, the AZA Roadside Zoo Task Force helped develop model state and local legislation to close the worst facilities.

"By reaching out in this way, AZA zoos and aquariums are demonstrating their concern for animal welfare outside their realm," Dr. Hutchins explained.

Dr. Hutchins concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of advancing both conservation and animal welfare.

"I think having these dual goals of animal welfare and conservation provides a strong ethical justification for zoos and aquariums."

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Animal Sake

The Unending Debate: Is it Right to Keep Animals in Zoos?

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The fascination of visiting a zoo has been replaced by confusion of late, with the entire debate revolving around ethics of keeping animals in captivity. As the debate continues to get intense, we decided to evaluate the pros and cons of this practice to determine whether it is justified or not.

The fragile ecosystem that we live in, is dependent on every single living being on the planet – right from microscopic bacteria to large mammals. The interdependence of species is a strong enough reason as to why we need to give due respect to the existence of animals with whom we share the planet. Sadly though, most of us are least concerned about the existence of animal species. In fact, some people don’t even hesitate to use these animals for their own selfish gains, and that has posed some serious questions which need to be given a serious thought.

More recently, the practice of keeping animals in zoos has come under the scanner with certain sections of animal rights movement arguing that confining animals in enclosures – irrespective of how big the enclosure is, is not at all a sane thing to do as it restricts their movement and brings about a series of change in their behavior. In order to understand if it’s okay to keep animals in zoos, one has to understand what a zoo is – and, more importantly, how it differs from other animals institutions such as a sanctuary.

What is a Zoo?

A zoo, which is an abbreviation for a zoological garden or zoological park, is a facility wherein animals are confined in enclosures and displayed to public. Some sources argue that a zoo need not be a facility for animal display alone, and may also encompass breeding of animal species which in itself amounts to wildlife conservation. A zoo differs from an animal sanctuary, considering the fact that the latter doesn’t confine animals to enclosures or prioritizes display of animals to public as zoos do. In fact, a wildlife sanctuary doesn’t even allow unescorted access or any activity that would result in undue stress for the wildlife. A zoo on the other hand resorts to enclosure which can be made from iron railings or glass walls, and this very fact has put it under the scanner for animal cruelty.

Why is it Right to Keep Animals in Zoos?

Even animal rights groups are divided on the issue of confining animals to zoos – with some in the favor of this practice, and others calling for a ban on the same. The foremost reason that those in favor of this practice cite is that it offers protection for wild animals, as keeping these animals in zoos is anytime better than keeping them in wild where they are vulnerable to threats like loss of habitat and poaching. For those species which are fighting for their basic existence, zoos are no short of haven wherein they are not just protected from poachers, but also get plenty of food and water along with proper medical care from trained vets as and when required.

Some zoos also facilitate reproduction programs which – in turn, contributes to wildlife conservation. These arguments are also backed by the fact that animals in captivity have a longer lifespan as compared to their counterparts in wilderness. The zoo is also considered to be the best bet for injured animals for whom it is difficult to survive in the wild. At the same time, we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to the fact that these zoos serve as educational tool which helps people understand why it is important to conserve nature. However, even those who are in support of this practice only support it along with some stipulations – most of which revolve around the safety of these animals in enclosures.

Why is it Wrong to Keep Animals in Zoos?

Those who are against the practice of keeping animals in zoos argue that the basic concept of ‘displaying animals to public’ which forms the basis of this practice is itself a strong enough reason for banning. They further add that the practice of using animals for our own selfish gains cannot be justified under the garb of protection or conservation. The treatment of animals in these zoos is yet another matter of concern, with quite a few reports about ill-handling of animals and resulting casualties coming to surface every once in a while. Again, this may not be the issue with modern zoos which boast of state-of-the-art facility which resemble the natural habitat of the animal in question to a great extent, but we need to understand that not all zoos of the world abide by the stipulated regulations.

Similarly, it is impossible to create a replica of natural habitats of animals – what you can create is just a close match of their habitat which may not hamper the natural behavior of these animals. One may argue that keeping animals in zoos works in their favor as they get a chance to reproduce, but the fact is that such interference on our behalf tends to hamper their natural reproduction process. In wild, the female has the option of choosing the healthiest male of the lot. This may not be true in captivity, and that – in turn, would mean transfer of weak genes to next generation. No human would prefer to be locked into a particular area – even if it is very vast, if it doesn’t allow him to explore the world. The same logic works in case of animals as well, and we can’t just boast of being a superior race and snatch their freedom. A monkey on the tree is anytime a pleasant sight as compared to a monkey on the railings of a huge metal cage.

It’s very difficult to come up with a concrete opinion on whether it is right to keep animals in zoos or not. It’s no doubt true that the animals are protected in these facilities as they don’t get into conflict with humans, but at the same time one can’t deny the fact that confining them into enclosures (or any other means of captivity) amounts to disrespect for nature. These animals are biologically programmed to survive in wild, and we should acknowledge this fact. A cheetah which relies on its amazing speed and hunting skills to bring down a gazelle in the vast open grasslands of the African Savannah will never be happy if it is confined to an enclosure – even if it means readily available food in its enclosure.

Zoo Feeding Time for Giraffe Zebra Antelope

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Keeping Animals in Zoos is Cruel?

This essay will debate the ethical considerations of keeping animals in zoos. It will discuss arguments regarding animal welfare, conservation efforts, and educational value versus issues of confinement, natural behavior inhibition, and the moral implications of captivity. The piece will explore the evolving role of zoos and modern standards for animal care. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about Animals.

How it works

How would you feel if you had bars surrounding you, faces peering in every minute of the day, and being taken out of your natural habitat? Having animals in a zoo is simply cruel to the animal. Most people get entertained by watching animals in zoos and knowing more about their behaviors. However, others believe that it is not right to keep animals trapped in zoos because that is not where they belong.

One argument in favor of keeping animals in zoos is that zoos can conserve endangered species.

A zoo is a secure place for endangered species to live. Therefore, they can be guarded from predators and hunters. For example, one of the most endangered species on this planet Javan Rhinoceros are being protected in high qualified zoos to save them from annihilation.

Another advantage is that keeping animals in zoos can educate the public. The public can know more about animal behavior by understanding the ways animals react and move. Furthermore, they can receive knowledge about animal features by easily observing them. For example, some zoos also have briefing sections where there is almost like a poster board about the animal being shown and gives the public a little bit of background about the animal.

Some people believe that animals in zoos are very well bred. Zoos provide medical treatments, nutritional food and clean water to animals. As a result, animals do not have to hunt for their own food as they do in the wild. Besides, animals have a suitable environment to live in. For instance, animals like dolphins and sharks can have clean fresh water to live in as well.

The most important disadvantage of keeping animals in zoos is that animals cannot stand being held in compact areas. It is like keeping animals in prison and now allowing them to be where they can actually belong. For this reason, animals have a chance of undergoing stress, frustration, and boredom, which can cause to react in very unusual ways, such as making loud noises, running around or even hitting the metal cage bars almost making them to go crazy.

Another disadvantage is that the animals will lack mental stimulation and survival skills. Animals in zoos rely on humans for food and other resources almost like a dog or cat. They do not have to hunt for food on their own and protect themselves from dangers as they do in the wild. This can seriously danger the animals released into the wild, since they barely have any survival skills they cannot defend themselves if they were under attack.

Another point against this issue is that visitors will not be able to see the true beauty or behavior of the animals in zoos. The small compact cages avoid animals from moving freely from place to place, causing them to behave in an unnatural way as they would in the wild. Furthermore, since animals are given food by the people in charge in zoos, we will not be able to see how they react when hunting for prey. For example, birds in cages or pens are not able to fly as they would in open air, limiting us from knowing about their flying styles or gestures.

It is simply inhumane to be keeping these animals in zoos, there are more unique ways for humans to be able to connect with the animals other than zoos. It is truly sad how so many people are blind to how these animals have to live and how ill-treated they are.

It has been proven several times that elephants born and raised in zoos live less than half as long as those living in their natural habitats. Ros Clubb, a wildlife scientific officer, studied the lifespan of elephants kept in captive and elephants from 1960 to 2005. Elephants travel with 30-40 other elephants, but in the zoo elephants are lucky if they have more than two other elephants walking with them. Asian elephants born in captivity lived less than half as long as those not kept captive. African elephants in zoos lived less than three times as long as those in the wild.

Removing animals from their habitat causes them to have serious health issues. Suffering from health problems leads to younger death. Animals do not know how to cope with living where they absolutely do not belong. This causes stress, boredom, depression, and anxiety. In 1922, Bill Travers came up with the term “”zoochosis”” to categorize these problems. There are many signs of unhealthy animals due to being kept captive such as, pacing, biting on bars, rocking and swaying, aggressive behavior, vomiting, and so many more. Animals are physically and mentally healthier where they belong, in the wild. Taking away the animals freedom from being able to run, climb, and hunt is causing obesity. These wild animals are meant to eat natural foods, not the artificial foods they are fed at the zoo. It is disappointing how early these behaviors were recognized yet animals are still being removed from their habitat and unnaturally breed, for entertainment and money purposes.

If people are so concerned about seeing wild animals in real life, there are other ways to do this. People can get educated and view wildlife in a sanctuary. Sanctuaries maintain each animal until their natural death. Real wildlife sanctuaries respect the feelings for each individual providing a healthy, safe, and unique environment. They do not buy, sell, breed, or slaughter animals but they take unwanted exotic pets, injured wildlife that would no longer survive in the wild and surplus animals for zoos.

Some zookeepers and animal advocates have the perspective that animals should be placed in zoos. They claim that zoos are places that help protect and reproduce endangered species. However, this is not true. When zoos try to bring new animals to exhibits, the process involves a ton of funding. Also taking the animals from their wild habitat destroys their native home. These funds that are being put into creating a “”fake”” natural habitat for these animals in zoos should be put to making their natural wild life habitat that they have lived in their whole life better instead of taking them away from what they have always been used to.

One of the most famous stories that America knows of that the pieces are still not fully put together of why this animal died is Shamu. Shamu being the first ever orca show at SeaWorld in 1965. What SeaWorld never disclosed to the public was that Shamu was kidnapped from her mother, and during her capture her mother was shot with a harpoon and killed right in front of her. Not only is this the first horrible thing to happen at SeaWorld that was never disclosed, but in 1978 SeaWorld captured two sharks from the ocean and put them in an enclosed cage. Within three days, these sharks were running into the walls so much that they sunk to the bottom and died. All we ever hear about in the public news is the good things to happen at these large public places but we never hear about the negative effects of trapping these animals in cages they can barely even move in. Some may think that SeaWorld is a great show for the community and young ones but are not thinking about the long term effects of these animals causing that species to possibly go extinct.

Animals are pushed around, bullied, by the so-called “”caring”” workers. Zoo management states that they are keeping their animal’s safe, but when chains and bullhooks are used for training and punishment, aching cries can be heard from these helpless animals. When giving

tours to their consumers, tour guides only talk about how the animals act out in wild. The main reason customers come out to the zoo is to see the animals. Disabled animals aren’t pleasant to see, hence their kept away from the crowd, given worse treatment and neglected more often. The truth is that workers don’t truly care about the animals they care about themselves.

So what can we do to help? Many countries around the world have no laws when it comes to protecting captive animals. In the US, surprisingly the US Department of Agriculture is supposed to enforce the Federal Animal Welfare Act. Although this is going to be put into place, anyone that fills out an application and sends in a fee will be able to keep animals captive aka zoos will most likely be taking charge right away. If we can start to tell our family members and peers that us buying tickets to the zoo Is only contributing to more and more animals being held captive, if we can get a stop to people buying zoo tickets that will limit the contributions to local zoos.

After taking everything into account, there are a number of advantages for this issue, such as animal conservation, public education and breeding programs. However, there are still some drawbacks, like limited spaces for animals, shortage of survival skills and animal behavior cannot be truly observed. Although, some people believe that keeping animals in zoos is can be an advantage for animals, my disadvantages outweigh my advantage’s and I disagree that animals should be kept in zoos.


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    Some people believe that it is wrong to keep animals in zoos, while others think that zoos are both entertaining and ecologically important. Discuss both views. Here are some (band 7 or higher) vocabulary ideas. I've organised the vocabulary according to different perspectives. Positives of keeping animals in zoos: Environmental perspective: Zoos play an important role in wildlife conservation ...

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    Video summary. Newsround presenter Leah Boleto explains how discursive writing requires an understanding of the difference between facts and opinions, and how to use connecting phrases and ...