As I have stated before, I do not like zoos, and do not believe that animals should be used as exhibits, even under the guise of education or protection from extinction. Zoocheck Canada, an organization I have supported for many years, provides this very timely discussion of zoos, in light of the Panda exhibit in Toronto. Dr Robinson argues that “Given our knowledge of animal psychology and behaviour, it is no longer possible for us to ignore the ethical wrong of keeping animals captive in our country’s zoos and aquariums.” Dr. Robinson expresses misgivings about the ethics of keeping animals captive in the name of conservation: “There is little doubt that conservation can be a worthy cause, but what is often not discussed is the moral dilemma of imprisoning one animal for the potential future generations of animals that may or may not come to fruition. The issue is then whether our desire for conservation outweighs a captive animal’s quality of life.”
Dr. Robinson concludes with something I’ve believed in for years, namely that should we be teaching children that keeping animals captive and depriving them of their natural environment and dignity is the proper way to care for, and respect them?
To continue to sell zoos as entertainment is cruel. Moreover, the fact that the exhibits are often directed at young people poses a larger problem. What kind of lesson are we teaching when we encourage them to derive pleasure out of the deprivation of another living being? The time has come to end this practice and start exploring other ways to observe and interact with animals. Surely by the twenty-first century we can stop looking at them in cages.