Most children have good memories of going to the zoo. My grandparents used to take me regularly, allowing me to gawk at the lions and tigers (which in reality, had no place living in the middle of New Jersey).
It wasn’t until I first watched Blackfish—a documentary on the life of Killer Whales in captivity—that I began to question something that I accepted as “normal” for my whole life. I had always thought zoos were a fun weekend activity, but as I delved into research, I realized their true, twisted nature.
The concept of one animal taking another into captivity is simply unethical. Animals forced into cruel conditions to entertain human beings implies that these animals are simply tools in human entertainment, rather than their own beings. What entitles us, as humans, to force these animals out of their natural habitat and into cages for us to walk by and stare at? Think about any time you have felt self-conscious. Maybe because someone pointed out an insecurity of yours, and all you could do was think about it from that point forward. During this time, all you would want is to be alone, but animals in captivity don’t get this same escape, constantly subjected to the “oohs” and “ahs” of passing humans. Though animals likely don’t feel the same kind of insecurity that we do, it has been proven that they are emotionally impacted by this cruel captivity.
There is endless evidence showing that animals are simply unhappy in zoos. They are forced into an area with limited space, deprived of their natural habitat and social structure. These factors all contribute to increased depressive behaviors in animals; a study by Plos One showed that being born in captivity increased the likelihood of the monkeys developing depressive behaviors. Too often, zoos look past the mental well-being of their animals, using them purely as ploys in their shallow mission of monetary gain.
Despite these inhumane zoos, though, it is important to recognize that not all zoos are like this. Many only take in injured animals who need sanction, protect species on the brink of extinction, and use funds to help support conservation, making it clear that helping these animals is the forefront of their mission, rather than wealth. A quick Google search looking into whether or not a zoo is non-profit and reading their mission statement can give key indications on the true goal of a zoo.
A great example of the issue of animals in captivity is an example I am sure we all know: Harambe. A four-year-old boy climbed into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and was taken by the seventeen-year-old Eastern Lowland Gorilla, Harambe. In fear for the boy's life, a zoo worker shot Harambe as the gorilla dragged the child by his arm across the exhibit. While the resulting “Harambe lives on” internet meme was popular for some time, the truth is that this entire event was avoidable. Harambe was a wild animal, kept inside an enclosure for all of his life. While we can say that the mother should have been watching her child better, or that the zoo should have had better security for the enclosure, the ultimate problem was the captivity of a wild animal that was never meant for this life. Harambe should have been roaming through Congo with fellow Lowland Gorillas. But instead, he died a tragic death due to something he had no control over: his captivity.
The sad truth is that Harambe is not the only example of this; there are many cases of wild animals “going crazy” or “losing control” and seriously hurting or killing humans. These animals are depressed, deprived of the habitat and life that they are meant for, and used as a form of human entertainment. From a moral, scientific, and safety standpoint, there is one ultimate conclusion: zoos must go. We must stop the ideology that zoos represent fair treatment of animals, and boycott all those which make no real efforts for helping and conserving different species.