Fun. Educational. Exotic. These might be words we associate with zoos when thinking about human experience of this topic. However, if we allow ourselves to think from an animal perspective, our words might be more along the lines of captivity, hurtful and unnecessary. The pain that animals experience due to our society’s use of zoos is no longer acceptable; we must speak up for the animals who have no voices and demand that they be heard. I admit that for a long time I was a supporter of zoos; I went to many as a child and experienced the same awe and amazement of the wild animals that most other people do. However, one day I realized that my source of enjoyment came at a price that I was not willing to pay: the pain and suffering of an innocent creature.
Animals that are kept in zoos are ripped away from their natural surroundings. Although the zoo may try to recreate the habitat that the animal came from, it will never amount to the real thing. Some of the habitats that zoo animals are forced to live in are even detrimental. When you google tales about animal captivity, you are led to news stories reported on elephants being euthanized due to a foot infection that was caused by the concrete floors of their enclosures or polar bears dying due to ingesting plastic that was thrown into their enclosures by a visitor. Although many zoos have these animals’ best interests at heart, they may not always be right in assuming what is actually best for these creatures. These tragedies beg the question: is it our right to interfere, or are we only hindering where we meant to help?
Some people may argue that zoos can be beneficial to preserving an endangered species or providing animals with necessary medical attention. This is true in many cases, and is most people’s reasoning for why zoos are beneficial to animals. However, one cannot argue that zoos are necessary in our society for these purposes when we already have a better option: sanctuaries. Sanctuaries, which are a place of refuge and safety, differ from zoos on many levels. For example, sanctuaries provide a permanent home for animals, whereas zoos will transfer animals and separate them from their families. Most sanctuaries provide ample land and space for animals to roam and do not offer tours to the public. Sanctuaries only take in animals that need medical attention or have no chance of a life in the wild due to their upbringing.
Some zoos are reforming and making adjustments for the betterment of the animals, which is a step in the right direction. However, the zoos that remain the same are not fun and games anymore; they are detrimental organizations that hold innocent animals captive. We, as a society, need to do what we can to protect these voiceless animals: stop buying tickets and start speaking out. We need to acknowledge that the purchase of a ticket into a zoo comes at a cost of suffering for a vulnerable animal. These creatures do not have any way to speak up for themselves. Let’s be their voice.