Zoos and ethics
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 15:29
I was watching Comedy Central this last week and saw a Joe Rogan standup bit. He equates zoos to prison for animals. Sure, they may play and do activities, he points out, but inmates play basketball in jail, too.
I recently visited the St. Louis Zoo. When we viewed the grizzly bears, one individual paced back and forth, tossing his head. It's not visible on the video, but he had flies on his face, which isn't anything unnatural and happens in the wild. However, it bugged me to see an animal like that in a 1500-square foot enclosure. We later visited the Asian elephants, and I got some video of them as well. As we exited the zoo, we came across two or three people protesting the elephants. They claimed that 1.5 acres is too small of an enclosure for elephants, which in my opinion is true. Unfortunately, I didn't get to stop and talk with them due to lack of time.
The two sides of this issue are both equally compelling to me. On one hand, zoos are unnatural habitats and often too small for the animals. Often, the large mammals look depressed. On the other hand, zoos provide people with the opportunity to see animals they would never see otherwise, increasing the public's awareness for wildlife not in their backyard. Also, zoos are great breeding facilities for preserving genetic variability.
I'm torn about the issue, so it's easy for me to stay objective, but it is an issue worth consideration. Are zoos humane?