During the Christmas break, Andy, Buddy, and I took our van on a road trip, and towards the end of our odyssey we decided to stop over in Dubbo. Neither of us had been before, and it offered a nice halfway point towards home. We stopped off in Bogan Shire (yes, really) for a coffee break, and got chatting to some of the locals. Where are you headed? Dubbo? Oh, you must check out the zoo. Cue polite smiling and non-committal murmurings.
Once we reached Dubbo we got more of the same. How long are you staying for? I bet you’re off to see the zoo next. When I actually confessed that no, we wouldn’t be going to the zoo, I felt like I’d grown a second head for the strange looks that I received. Not going to the zoo? Are you mad? It seems to be a quick way to end a conversation.
Of course we had no intention of visiting the zoo. No matter how it’s dressed up, a zoo is still a place where animals are kept against their will in an unnatural environment for the profit and entertainment of humans. Sure some of them have come a long way from the concrete cages of the past, but keeping wild animals in restricted areas when normally they’d roam free is just wrong. People will object to this in the name of conservation or education but that’s wrong too. Many of the animals in captivity are not listed as endangered, and animals are being bred not to protect their species, but to ensure profit. Some animals are even being culled to make way for new ones. Zoos exist for profit. And when money is involved, you can be sure that the welfare of the animals comes second to getting people through the door.
The thing that I find disheartening is that so many people still seem to find it acceptable to visit zoos and aquariums. In the same way we’re conditioned to believe that eating meat and dairy should be part of our lives, we’re also told that a trip to the zoo is a fun family day out. But there’s nothing fun about watching a lion pace around an enclosure when they should be roaming over hundreds of square miles of land, or seeing a polar bear cooped up in a pen 0.0009% the size of the range he would have had in the Arctic.
We’re forcing animals to live unfulfilling lives in environments that literally drive them mad. We’re taking away their right to freedom for our so-called right to entertainment. But we don’t have the right to see these animals in zoos. We don’t have the right to have our photos taken with them. We don’t have the right to force them to parade around in circuses. It’s wrong on so many levels. Once again we’re treating animals as though their sole purpose on this Earth is to meet our needs. Feed us, clothe us, entertain us. We take, take, take, but little thought is given to how our choices are impacting the lives of others.
If you care about animals then please don’t support zoos and aquariums. Animals belong in the wild, not in tanks, not in cages, not on stage. We need to get rid of this idea that it’s normal to see animals in captivity. It’s not natural and it’s not right. They deserve their freedom as much as we do.