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Opinion: Why We Should Abolish Zoos

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When I was little, I loved zoos because I loved animals (and my brothers used to love making fun of me because I would create flyers with animal rights slogans and hang them up around the house). I believed that zoos were places for people who love animals, and I was excited to visit them and see animals in what I thought to be a happy place.

Opinion: Why We Should Abolish Zoos

Recent events have led many to wonder–Should we abolish zoos?

Now that I am older, I still love animals. I love them so much that I think they don’t belong behind bars and in cages. I believe that zoos are not natural or happy places for animals, and they don’t really achieve the goal of “education” either. Showing a chimpanzee in a cage, while he is sadly sitting in a corner and maybe eating a banana, is not educating people about chimpanzees. It’s a form of imprisonment that ultimately aims at entertaining us humans. I also don’t buy the argument that zoos protect animals that are endangered because there are other, better ways to do that including wildlife animals sanctuaries and making sure our policy makers implement relevant legislation.

Opinion: Why We Should Abolish Zoos

Harambe 

When Harambe, a silverback gorilla, was recently killed in a Cincinnati zoo because he “put a 4-year-old child into danger,” my heart was broken. Yes, I do very much care about the little boy as well and believe that both the zoo and the parents take major responsibility for this event. I find it very contradictory, however, to claim to protect an animal from its extinction and then to shoot it in its manmade prison. What this truthfully hints at are bigger issues that we can no longer deny: Harambe is unfortunately not the only animal, living in a zoo or elsewhere in a confined space, who got hurt. Violence against him didn’t start when he was killed but long before that–when we decided to take away his freedom.

My biggest issue with zoos is that they are unnecessary and that no matter how “well kept” the animals are, they are never free nor in their truly natural habitat. If you want to learn about monkeys, there are tons of research papers, books, documentaries, and primate researches that can answer all your curiosity, but the zoo is the last place where you need to go to learn about animals. And this applies to all animals in my opinion.

The fundamental problem lies in the fact that animals are treated like things in this country. Their legal status is equal to a car, although they are sentient beings. Some primates, for example, are probably intellectually more advanced than certain toddlers because they communicate, have a sense of self, and understand concepts of past, present, and future. Strange though that we don’t put toddlers into zoos. Because that would be absurd, right? Well same goes for animals, especially the ones that are 98% genetically identical with us.

So, what would happen, if we would stop imprisoning animals and using them for entertainment? Wonderful things! We would teach our children and future generations that animals are not meant to live in confinement. And that they have the right to be happy and live pain-free lives. We would raise generations of conscious, sensitive, and compassionate humans. Isn’t that wonderful? I can only start to dream about what else that would mean for our society if we would all be more compassionate in our everyday lives. If animals would be put under the legal status of persons and have fundamental rights to things such as bodily integrity and liberty, we would truly progress as mankind.

What is your opinion on zoos? What’s your perspective on the Harambe incident?  

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Isabelle Steichen

Isabelle Steichen

Founder at The Plantiful
​Isabelle grew up in Luxembourg and transitioned from an omnivore, cheese loving life to a plant-based diet after she finished her master's in urban studies in Paris and moved to NYC in January 2013. Her decision was triggered by environmental, ethical as well as health reasons. She is passionate about veganism and health and has a plant-based nutrition certificate from e-Cornell. The Plantiful is her blog and creative outlet that she uses to share her love for all things plant-based. Isabelle is also a health coach and a certified yoga teacher with focus on restorative.
  • Jay

    I completely see your point of view and pretty much agree. To be fair though there are zoos that are better than others and many do house animals that are extremely endangered in the wild. I think until humans realise what they are doing to the planet that isn’t going to change. It’s not their natural environment no, but if they have lots of space and are given the freedom to behave as normally as possible plus lots of enrichment then it’s sometimes better than the alternative. I do also think as well that they can educate children and spark an interest and concern they may not otherwise have (by only seeing them as things because they’re only on TV or in pictures, again many people need to see to things to relate to them) but again only if a decent zoo. I completely see where you’re coming from I really do and in an ideal world absolutely they’d be free. It’s a tough question it really is and I’m on the fence about it.

    Harambe – I hate that animals are second class citizens and that’s essentially why they shot him because his life was worth less than a child’s. But I wouldn’t have wanted to make the decision and there was a lot of talk around there being no other option. I hate it, but I don’t know how to judge it other than be sad about the tragic loss of a beautiful gorilla.

    • Isabelle Steichen

      Hi Jay,

      I understand what you mean but I believe that most zoos do not fulfill these criteria and I also think that animal sanctuaries are better options, because their true goal is to protect the animals.

      As for Harambe, I think the question is less if this was right or wrong, it’s more: what do we do now? What does this teach us for the future? How can we avoid situations like that all together? You know my answer to that 😉

      Thanks so much for sharing your opinion on this!!

      Isabelle

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