When was the last time you visited a zoo? I think that you shouldn’t visit a zoo and that they should be banned. But there is a lot of controversy over whether or not they are educational etc.
Today I want to talk about zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries. What is the difference between the three? Which, if any, are good?
First, let me ask you a question.
Did you enjoy lockdown?
No, I didn’t think so.
I remember once in primary school we had to write about whether or not we agree with zoos. It took me a while to decide. I loved animals so I didn’t see why they should be trapped in tiny cages. But then I wondered about the education point of view, would we know about them if they weren’t right in front of us? And are they there to be kept healthy so the population doesn’t die out? It was far too complicated for my mind and I couldn’t seem to figure out the facts.
Now that I’m older, I wholeheartedly do not agree with zoos. Even if you are trying to conserve a species, you do not put it in a tiny cage or feed it once it has entertained the crowds. Animals are essential to ecosystems, we aren’t! They would be perfectly happy without us, we are the ones that wouldn’t survive without them.
I used to love going to the aquarium and seeing seahorses & otters! When I discovered how awful they treated the animals and how much damage was being done, I didn’t want to go. Lots of fish die in aquariums due to bad sanitation – one gets ill and infects them all. I read this article from the BBC and just think it is completely ridiculous! They say that the benefits of aquariums are to improve our well-being and mental health. Of course, it is a known fact that nature improves our mental health, but I don’t see how visiting some caged animals would make anyone feel better. And why not go to a park or sit on the beach, we do not deserve to see animals performing for our entertainment.
Are they good or bad? I never really know because some act well but then turn out not to be. There are so many bad people out there pretending to be good, it seems similar to greenwashing. Some still have animals on display for the public to view so in my eyes, they aren’t putting the animals first which is what an animal sanctuary is there to do.
Then there is all the conservation. If they didn’t breed them, they might go extinct and that is also bad. It’s a hard one.
Let’s look at the 3 in more detail.
Benefits of zoos
- Save endangered species from poachers etc. – e.g. Amur leopards (We should make better laws to stop poaching and hunting going ahead.)
- Available mates
- Scientific research
Costs of zoos
- Small cages can result in stress, illness/diseases, restlessness, abnormal routines and even early death
- Psychologically damaging for animals – zoos have a much different atmosphere than the wild, sticking a few bamboo leaves in a panda enclosure is not the same! Zoos disrupt their diet & routine which can make them very unsettled, depressed & anxious. Just because we don’t speak the same language as them doesn’t mean they don’t have any feelings
- They trade animals with other zoos – this can cause interbreeding, loss of connection and trust, restlessness and loneliness
- Zoos choose the good looking, colourful or most popular animals and reject the uglier looking animals
- Baby animals are obviously really cute but it motivates the zookeepers to overbreed resulting in them selling or giving away the babies to other zoos, circuses, labs or traders.
- Less diverse breeding pool for the animals left in the wild – bigger chance of inbreeding
- The officials in charge of zoos aren’t very strict with the rules of how big a habitat must be etc.
- If a member of the public abuses the rules, and steps too close which results in the animal reacts badly (which it obviously would when it’s just there for entertainment), it’s the animals’ fault and they are nearly always killed.
- Their priority is to make money & attract tourists
- Is it educational? Or does it teach children that animals live in cages and that it’s okay to do so?
- If zoos are for conserving animals then why do menus include meat? Why don’t they make all the food vegetarian or vegan
There are 4 weak benefits above. I think it’s pretty clear that you shouldn’t visit a zoo.
Benefits of aquariums
Costs of aquariums
- Did you know that orcas spend their entire life with their family? Or that dolphins live together in pods? Aquariums tear families apart!
- They are specifically looking for females who can breed
- They corner dolphins into the shallow parts of the water and then lift them onto the boat for capture – they often die from shock
- Babies are taken away from their mothers and are sometimes sent to a different aquarium
- They force them to reproduce via artificial insemination
- Chlorine keeps the tanks clean but can lead to seals going blind
- Many suffer from early death – sharks tend to die after only a few days in an aquarium
- Lots of interactive activities take place – swim with dolphins, watch a whale show, hold penguins etc.
- They aren’t educational because they aren’t acting how they would if they were in the wild
- Sometimes the aquarium has technical errors, like when an oxygen pump broke – PETA2
I’m not naming names (SeaWorld) but aquariums are so harmful to marine animals, please do not visit them!
What are they?
When you hear the word sanctuary, you think of a safe place. But is it a safe place for animals?
The idea of a sanctuary is that it is a space for endangered animals to live safely for the rest of their lives. The reason why breeding doesn’t take place is that breeding them in captivity won’t help the numbers in the wild and if they are breeding for a profit then it isn’t conservation!
Read this article for more: True sanctuaries do not breed animals
How to tell whether a sanctuary is good or bad
It’s good when…
- Tourists aren’t allowed
- There’s a wide-open space
- It’s for the animals
- The animals are the most important thing
- There are the right amount of animals
- Giving the right amount of food – some places put out the food right in front of the animal, others scatter it about so that they keep up their hunting skills.
- They don’t breed animals
I recommend reading this article for more information.
It’s bad when…
- It looks like a zoo, with cages & bars or electric wire up
- It’s open to the public
- Animals are the entertainment
- Tourists are allowed to feed them – e.g. feeding a baby cub some milk
- The rangers are making money – e.g. selling fur, eggs, photographs
- There are loads of animals
I hope this post has cleared up some confusion between the three!
I know this is a bit of a controversial topic but I’d really love to know your opinions on zoos, aquariums & sanctuaries, let me know in the comments.
Best wishes, Cx