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.

Zoos

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.

Aquariums

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.

Sanctuaries

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

  • Educational
  • 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.

Giraffe stuck in a zoo
Photo by Omar Ram on Unsplash

Benefits of aquariums

  • None

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!

Animal sanctuaries

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
zebra standing in the grassland
Photo by Wilmy van Ulft on Unsplash

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

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71 Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    Oh wow, I never knew most of this. Really informative post. Thanks so much for sharing, this has definitely changed my attitude.

    1. Thank you, I’m glad 🙂

  2. I hate going to these places sooooo much! It makes me feel sick when I see those animals craving for freedom. It just seems too cruel for me!

  3. I had not dwelled on it before but you make a good point. Lots of facts I did not know.

  4. I used to love zoos when I was a kid but nowadays it’s not for me, I would rather these animals be released back into their natural habitats rather than be seen as a sideshow x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

    1. So true x

  5. This is a really interesting topic. Honestly, I have never in my life visited zoos, aquariums or sanctuaries. I grew up in the countryside and always felt animals, all kind of animals as my friends. I repel even the idea of paying to visit a place where animals are imprisoned.
    Many of my friends tell me that Ι am excessive about this thing but this is how I feel. Your post gave me more reasons to insist in my opinion. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You definitely aren’t excessive for thinking that! I’m glad my post has helped x

  6. This was such an interesting and thought provoking read. I’ve never thought about zoos much but you’re bang on with each point.

    1. Thank you 💚

  7. I completely agree with this. I used to love going to the zoo, in fact it was my favourite place to visit since I loved animals so much… which is why I will never step foot in a zoo again. Thanks so much for another informative post!

    1. Thank you <3

  8. This post taught me so much, I haven’t been to zoo’s or aquariums for some time – and this post helped me learn more about why I likely won’t go back at least not without some research! Thanks for sharing this important information, and I agree animals lived forever doing fine in the world without us caging them – yet we do it and say it’s best for them.

    1. I know right, it makes me so sad! x

  9. Oh this post makes me feel bad, I went to an aquarium on Monday. I didn’t know a lot about these problem with aquariums (I watched blackfish and this one didn’t have orcas or performing animals).

    Corinne x

    1. It’s okay, at least you know now 🙂

  10. I had no idea that zoos and aquariums were that bad. Thank you for sharing this information.

    1. Thank you for reading

  11. I totally agree. My sister wanted to get birds but I told her don’t snatch their freedom and was misjudged.

    1. Thank you!

  12. Oh I love visiting Zoos and look at cute animals. I haven’t visit any Zoos for quite a long time. I miss visiting Zoos.

    1. No offence but did you read the post? It was on why you shouldn’t visit zoos!

  13. What an insightful and important post, I really enjoyed reading this! I’m glad you’re bringing awareness to this topic xx

    1. Thank you Della x

  14. I loved the zoo, but you are absolutely right – while there are pros of it, it’s mostly damaging and I can’t say I agree with making animals feel that way at any given point. I don’t particularly enjoy aquariums anyway (fear of water means I can’t breathe if I walk through the rooms!) and sanctuaries…I wish it was all easier. Thank you for this Caroline, it’s a great piece.

    1. Thank you Simona, I totally get what you mean x

  15. I have been to the zoo thrice and while I loved my experience at the zoo, this gave me a different perspective of things. You made some fantastic points here. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading 🙂

  16. I really agree with this post Caroline, and it’s interesting to find out more about this. Thank you for sharing x

    1. Thank you! x

  17. I wholeheartedly agree with much of what you have said. The Aquarium in Vancouver, however, has changed their focus and only house small marine mammals who they’ve had their care to heal due to injury and most often return these to the ocean. There are the occasional times that these mammals cannot be returned due to permanent injury which would essentially be returning them to their death. These animals are well cared for and play a part in teaching about the need to care for our oceans.

    1. That’s amazing that they are doing that! They like a sanctuary kind of aquarium 🙂 x

  18. Thank you so much for this post Caroline! I stopped visiting zoos a couple years ago for the reasons you stated above. Last month, during a trip with my family, we went to an aquarium. It was my first time visiting one. Even though I could see beautiful and amazing species of fish, and got educated on a few aspects, it was still heartbreaking.
    Again, thank you so much for bringing awareness on this issue.

    1. Thank you x

  19. I have greatly struggled with my feelings about zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries since I was a child too. I would consider myself an environmental justice advocate and activist and this absolutely covers protecting animals, nature and wildlife, etc. And while it’s incredible to see animals up close, it’s abundantly clear animals do not belong in these types of places. As you point out, even sanctuaries have a bottom line, and it can often just be about money and not about caring for the creatures they “look after” at all. There are places that really are about conservation, but they don’t tend to have visitors and they aren’t part of the normal tourist trade. I know people don’t like to acknowledge that something they do or enjoy can actually be detrimental so this is a difficult topic to cover — I think you did a good job at sharing why we need to stop and think about whether we should support visiting zoos, etc.

    1. I totally feel you! Thank you x

  20. Yes, yes, yes! I remember watching the animals in the zoo and being so sad for them, even as I got older. Thank you for spreading awareness about this. I think if more people understood that there are options, they would do the right thing. (I hope!)

    1. Thank you! 🙂

  21. This is such an interesting and informative post! I hadn’t really considered my view on this before but after reading this I’m with you, zoos, aquariums and bad sanctuaries all sound awful for the animals. Thanks so much for sharing, this was super educational x

    1. Thank you, I’m glad it was useful x

  22. I have truly never thought of it like this at all. Animals do not exist simply for our enjoyment and entertainment. They should be free to be themselves in their own natural habitats and allow nature to take its course.

  23. What are your thoughts on having pets?

    1. That’s such an interesting question! I have 2 cats and I love them to pieces. I don’t think they are meant for the wild as they are domesticated and I see it as our home is a sanctuary for them (as long as you are a good pet owner of course!)

  24. Your blog post reminds me of my childhood days where I get excited to see different animals. Also, I remember the animation movies “The Wild” and “Madagascar”. Hahaha! This is fun. 😂 Anyway, thanks for sharing informative content about zoos.

  25. This is a great post! I do not support zoos or aquariums at all. I like how you broke down some good and bad things to look out for for sanctuaries. That’s really helpful!

    1. Thank you x

  26. This is such an interesting read, and something I had not properly considered before! Thank you for sharing this x

    1. Thank you x

  27. Do you know what? You’re so right. I went to Seaworld years ago and even though the message was all about preservation of the seas, it just didn’t feel right to see those magnificent animals in captivity. It took my breath away to see how big the killer whales were but they looked so sad! It’s barbaric, I hope my children never even see this kind of thing

    Rosie

    1. I totally agree x

  28. I totally agree, I haven’t been able to enjoy zoos anymore for years… I feel so incredibly sorry for all of those gorgeous creatures in captivity for people’s sport, it’s disgusting. Very mixed feelings about whether zoos should be even legal cause on one side they are very educational, but making the zoos as good for the animals as possible is near impossible.

    Teresa Maria | Outlandish Blog

    1. Me too, it’s a hard one!

  29. While I think it’s great that we are able to see animals up close and personal, I have to agree with you. I don’t like zoos. I don’t like their concept. And I especially don’t like small and unsuitable zoo environments. Some have large, open spaces with enough room for their animals. But plenty don’t. That to me is just acceptable cruelty at it’s worst.

    1. So true x

  30. You make some interesting points. I think that zoos housing animals that can’t be returned to the wild can and should welcome paying visitors – they often use their income to drive environmental conservation and breeding programs to help species survive that would otherwise be at risk of extinction. We visit a wildlife park and a zoo each year, in the knowledge that they reinvest their income in preservation efforts and that the animals are well cared for with lots of room.

    1. Interesting view, I have visited a safari park in the past but I’m not sure what I think about it anymore.

  31. This was incredibly informative. I used to spend a lot of time at the zoo due to school field trips and friends birthday parties, and as I’ve gotten older and learned more about zoos I choose not to spend my money there. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you x

  32. What an interesting and informative post! I used to love visiting zoos as a kid, but I very rarely go anymore, especially aquariums, for these same reasons.

    1. Thank you 🙂

  33. I’d definitely take sanctuaries that rehabilitate injured and abused animals to get them back into the wild and also seeing animals in their natural habitat over a zoo any day! This is such a good and insightful post 🙂

    Shannon x
    http://www.shanylou.co.uk

    1. Me too, thank you x

  34. Great informative post, Caroline! I don’t find the attraction to visit a zoo but I have gone to the aquarium a handful of times. I like attractions where we visit and observe animals in the wild! Thanks for sharing x

    Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

    1. Thanks xx

  35. Super interesting and informative post! I’m so conflicted with zoos because whilst they do play a big role in conservation, I think that their should be a step after that so that animals who are healthy and don’t need to be cared for by humans can have a way out (e.g: National parks – The animals are still monitored but they live like they would do in the complete wilderness). I also feel bad for zoo keepers getting a lot of hate because I do genuinely think that they love their animals with all their heart. As for payment for visitors (especially sancutaries), it’s important to remember that they do need funding to continue caring for the animals. I visited a sanctuary this Summer and the animals who don’t like interacting with visitors were respected and restricied from visitors (or had anough space to walk away, e.g.: In a mssive field). At the same time there were animals who absolutely loved the attention including a tortoise that wouldn’t stop following me! Some animals were kept in smaller areas to prevent them from injuring themselves as they heal. With the expection of that, if animals aren’t provided with enough space and enrichment, that is a problem (particularily in aquariams and for animals like elephants and tigers). I do find it extremely uncomfortable seeing animals confined to such small enclosures…

  36. I like your post thank you for giving us pointers when we visit places with animals. Yes, I don’t like Zoos either, like the case in my country where the polar bear turned green. It was painful to watch the poor bear pacing round and round the small enclosure. My country the weather is just way too hot glad they are not getting any more polar bears after it passes on 🙁

    1. Oh no, that’s horrible! x

  37. […] Kind – vegan, cruelty-free, fair pay wage, safe working conditions and promotes quality of life for humans and animals […]

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