Zoos Serve More Purpose Than Just Entertainment
A close friend of mine is the type of person that lives his life to serve animals. He worked for a number of years as a zookeeper and now works for the city animal control department. I respect his service and passion highly, but I myself am not much of an animal person. Don’t really like dogs or cats… But strangely, I find myself going to the two different zoo’s and aquarium here in Phoenix more frequently than just about any other attraction type of place when I get bored, have a date, or have friends visiting the city. There’s just something serene about the zoo or an aquarium. They’re great for groups or when you’re all by yourself. And me personally, I just love sitting and relaxing watching the tigers in the zoo. Such magnificent creatures!
A few weeks ago during my latest trip to the zoo while I was walking around I overheard a group of teenagers talking. They were probably around 16 or 17 years old or so, and a girl was saying to the group how she was totally against zoos. She boldly proclaimed that she believed in total animal liberation and was preaching all things PETA to the group. She was basically reciting word for word PETA’s website to them. I listened in for a while from a distance as she made absurd statements I could tell she didn’t fully understand. Ignorance sure is bliss.
As badly as I wanted to say something to them, (I’m pro-animal but anti-PETA) I held my tongue and continued on my way. Complete animal liberation is a complete joke (see what i did there?) and besides, I love me some ribeye steaks and consider the cheeseburger it’s own food group. But hearing their conversation did get me thinking about the subject. I continued my trip around the zoo that day looking at things from many different perspectives and really analyzing whether or not a zoo is necessary in todays society. Is the animal’s sacrifice of living in the confined quarters a zoo offers a necessary evil for their own species well being? What is the main purpose of a zoo or aquarium nowadays in modern times? Is it entertainment or money or perhaps something different?
It Boils Down To Education and Conservation
If you are that girl, or the type of person that see zoos as unnecessary and immoral, then I’m afraid we are going to find ourselves disagreeing from here on out. It is my belief that they are very necessary, and that the animals stuck in them are sacrificing themselves for the greater good of their particular species.
It’s one thing to read about a tiger and the conservation efforts on their behalf in books, magazines, and the Internet, but a whole other thing to see a tiger at a zoo, and stand a few feet from the cage and make eye contact with it. That bond you feel with an animal when you are right there with it is a strong and powerful thing. That bond is what compels people to take up conservation efforts who might have never thought about it before having that sort of experience only a zoo can offer.
In modern day American city and suburban life, it is really easy to get caught up in your stuff and technology and forget about all the different animals out there in the wild being hunted into extinction by illegal poaching and environmental changes. Zoos bring that right to the doorstep of the major cities and to people who would never have the means to see these animals in their natural habitat. Humans run the planet and it’s up to us to watch out for the animals. We have the ability to run them into extinction or to help conserve what they have left. If not enough people care, then the animals really have a serious problem. Zoos and aquariums help make people care who otherwise might not have.
Let’s Look At Some Of The Arguments
Often people will complain about the small and confined space of a zoo. Newsflash – – This isn’t the old days of the circus keeping the animals in teeny tiny cages. Modern American zoos usually give the animals spacious enclosures. Granted, it’s not ideal but that is why I have used the word “sacrifice” multiple times throughout this article. There’s no doubt that animals stuck in zoos have a worse life than animals running free range. I don’t think that, and I’m not making that argument. They live healthier longer lives outside of captivity. The fact is though that most US zoos take pretty good care of their animals, and people like my friend find their way to working at them and dedicate their life to making sure those animals are as comfortable as can be.
As with anything, there are going to be a few zoos or aquariums out there that aren’t as good as they could be. Because these animals don’t have a voice, there are regulations in place for the animals welfare. Both accredited and unaccredited animal exhibitors in the US are regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act, which establishes standards for care. If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know I am usually against government regulation, but this is a spot where a little bit more regulation wouldn’t be a bad thing. Making sure animals that are in the zoos and aquariums are comfortable is important as they are there not by their own choice and lets face it, we at least owe them that…
Another argument given regards the exploitation of animals in zoos or places like SeaWorld where they are used to perform. I recently saw the documentary Blackfish, which is quite agenda driven I must say, but it brought to my attention in a non direct way that the orcas performing for audiences are paying the bills for the massive conservation efforts done by SeaWorld for killer whales and marine life in general. It seems easy for die hard tree-huggers to overlook that worldwide conservation efforts take massive amounts of money which these captive animals help provide.
Zoos & Aquariums Are Not Going Anywhere So Deal With It…
Sorry to sound like a dick to the haters of zoos and aquariums, but’s that’s reality. Those folks really need to take that passion they have for the animals and direct it in a different more constructive direction like conservation or education. To be frank, their protests of zoos and aquariums are just a waste of their time and efforts, when they could be doing so much good with a change of perspective. Without zoos and aquariums children in cities would lose touch with animals not found in the neighborhood. That’s just the way it is.
We also need to applaud institutions like SeaWorld for their efforts, not lambaste them. Money motivates, and if a company can make money while fulfilling their mission and goals of helping animals in the wild why the fuck should people protest that? That’s crazy and un-American! Just because they are a company doesn’t mean they can’t do some good. Besides, how much money did you contribute last year to orca conservation? I’m guessing it’s a lot less than SeaWorld did…
Yes, seeing animals locked up kinda sucks and can be a bit depressing, but that is looking at the glass as half empty. If people lose this sort of face to face connection with the earths creatures that zoos and aquariums provide, then there is no hope or money for the animals in the wild and conservation efforts. To those who say, “If you want to see a giraffe, go take a safari!”, I say, find me an inner city youth that has the means to make that a real viable alternative otherwise you foot the bill for every child that does not have that opportunity. Let’s all live in the real world and focus on reality and not fantasies.
Like them or not, zoos and aquariums are good things. They bring people together and serve a purpose greater than just entertainment. They inspire people to act in defense of the animals they see. If you think zoos are bad, I encourage you to take this into consideration and spend your efforts on making sure the animals we have in captivity are well taken care of, and the ones in the wild stay alive and thrive! Don’t waste your efforts on trying to take down something positive. You are only doing a disservice to the animals and to yourself.
What do you think? We’d love to hear you sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!