Zoos and Circuses
Let me start this (short) post by saying that I have visited zoos in my life. Many of them, more than once and many of them as an adult as well. They were seemingly nice, large zoos, with spacious cages and the animals seemed to be well-fed and clean. I enjoyed watching them munch their lunch and hop around. I enjoyed seeing live exotic animals that I would probably never see in nature. I always thought that zoos are a great way to educate kids about nature and the different animal species and habitats of the world.
And of course, I despised circuses. I hated that animals were tortured, in order to be trained. I found it cruel that they had to travel in caravans and did not have a permanent “home”. I hated the fact that they were used as exhibits. But it never crossed my mind that zoos and circuses have that exact thing in common. Animals are exhibited in zoos for no other reason than to please human curiosity. Many zoos will claim that they contribute in the conservation of certain species. But how hypocritical is that, when it is humans who caused that need for conservation in the first place?
Let’s take a second to remember that:
- Humans destroy the natural habitats of wild species, in order to plant fodder crops for farm animals.
- Humans destroy natural habitats to exploit fossil fuel, mineral and precious stone resources.
- Humans cause the death of millions of animals per year via recreational hunting.
- Humans contribute to the death of millions of endangered animals each year by buying products made of crocodile and snake skins, fur and ivory (among others).
This means that if we put the effort and funds that goes into creating zoos, into stopping those practices, there would be most likely no need for “conservation”. I know that my next sentence might sound a bit provocative, but I will write it anyway: Why is it better for the last representatives of an endangered species to leave the humiliating life of a prisoner in a concrete cage, instead of dying in the wild, in their natural environment? We are trying to keep them alive for us, for our own entertainment and to ease our guilt. This is how I feel about it.
What happened to Marius, the young giraffe that was killed and fed to the lions in a Copenhagen zoo, is the fate of many animals kept in zoos. Unlike humans, there are no contraceptive options available for all animals (not to mention how unnatural this concept is). And if new babies are allowed to stay in the same cage with their parents and siblings, inbreeding will soon begin. Some zoos will sell new babies to other zoos. Some others will do what the Copenhagen zoo did. Only more discretely.
Whenever you visit a zoo, you fund the enslavement of animals. If, until now, you thought that you are contributing to their well-being, since your money goes towards feeding them and keeping them healthy and clean, think again. Most of those animals come from the wild. They were found injured and instead of being returned to the wild when they got healthy, they were sold to zoos. Many are illegally captured. And zoos make huge profits!
What can you do to help the animals
If you really want to donate some of your money and time towards the protection of wildlife, do not visit zoos. Instead:
- Support animal sanctuaries that are doing their best to rehabilitate sick and injured animals and release them back to the wild.
- Support organizations that are trying to put an end to illegal practices, like animal poaching.
- Support organizations that protect natural habitats, like rainforests or the polar circle.
- Eat a more plant-based diet. This reduces the demand for meat, which in turn reduces the demand for fodder, which reduces the risk of rainforests being cut down to grow soy or wheat, to feed farm animals.
How will your kids learn about wildlife
Natural history museums are a great place to teach kids about nature, without the need to enslave animals. Read the caption to get a better idea of what I mean.
So, the next time you get the urge to visit a zoo, because animals are just so cute and wonderful and the zoo is already there anyway, think what you are contributing to. Visit a natural history museum or a botanical garden instead 🙂