Zoos: Misconstrued Perceptions of Animal Mistreatment

Despite the fact that zoos are a popular attraction for tourists and other groups of people around the world, I believe that zoos are stigmatized by individuals who think that animals recieve poor treatment because they are locked in closed spaces instead of being out in the wild. However, this bad reputation is misconstrued by people because they may not have all of the facts, and they are also not looking at the benefits that zoos can provide for visitors and people around the world.

According to The Guardian’s article, “Why zoos are good,” some of the benefits of zoos include conservation, education for children and adults and research to learn how species live, act and react. The article also said, “it is hard to see zoos as anything other than being essential to the long-term survival of numerous species.”

Mark Shively, an adjunct philosophy professor at California Lutheran University, has some experience with zoos as he has been to America’s Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, the Los Angeles Zoo, and SeaWorld.

“Previously, animals were viewed as objects for human entertainment, but now their well-being and perspective is taken into consideration, but I think it’s still a work in progress and that there is a long way to go for a lot of species,” Shively said.

Two incidents at zoos that have gained notoriety were the Harambe gorilla incident at the Cincinnati Zoo and the peacock/lion incident at the Calgary Zoo. These tragedies resulted in the death of Harambe, the gorilla, when a child fell into his enclosure and he was shot, and the death of a male peacock that flew into a lion enclosure and was eaten.

“I think when you look at cases like the Harambe one, you can see it as a small test case for how we ought to rethink our relationship to wildlife,” Shively said.

Even though zoos have good characteristics, people who are against zoos and the captivity of animals argue by pointing to examples of animals being used for entertainment. According to PETA, thousands of animals are forced to perform tricks under the threat of physical punishment, and are separated from their families, all for the sake of human entertainment.

Shively added that large sea mammals should not be kept in zoos at all because their psychology is suffering in the same ways as their physical bodies and dorsal fins in small tanks.

“On the flip side of that, I think zoos have an important effect on children, especially in terms of inspiring careers that are all about helping animals, studying them in the wild and being able to promote policies that help sustain their populations in the wild,” Shively said.

In my own experience, I went to the San Diego Zoo this past summer, and I saw that all the animals were treated very well, and the zoo staff knew all the animals’ names and habits.

I got to see panda bears, elephants, orangutans and feed giraffes acacia leaves. After this experience I did not see any examples of negative animal care.

David Brown