Can you imagine spending your entire life in a small space that isn’t big enough to do anything you enjoy doing, like playing with friends, exploring, or traveling? Instead of living freely with your family in your home, you’re stuck in an unfamiliar place, often alone or with other people you don’t know, while hundreds of loud people crowd around you and stare. Does that sound like fun? Of course not! But that’s what life is like for animals in zoos.
Here are five reasons why you should never visit zoos.
In the wild, elephants walk up to 30 miles each day, bears are active for up to 18 hours a day exploring their home ranges for up to hundreds of miles, and tigers and lions love running and climbing and will roam many miles to hunt. But when these animals (or any wild animal) are imprisoned in cages or small enclosures at zoos, they don’t get to do the things that are natural and important to them. Instead, animals in zoos are kept in cramped spaces with virtually no privacy and have very few opportunities to exercise or keep their minds active.
Living without these important things often causes “zoochosis,” a condition in which animals act strangely and even hurt themselves out of boredom and frustration. </3
The signs of zoochosis are easy to spot. Bears and big cats, like lions and tigers, will pace back and forth. Monkeys and birds injure themselves. Giraffes twist their necks and bend their heads back and forth, and elephants bob their heads and sway side to side. This isn’t natural behavior that would be seen in the wild.
Because people love seeing baby animals at zoos, lots of zoos breed animals to make more babies, and, as a result, make lots of money. When babies grow up, though, they aren’t as popular. Not a single U.S. zoo has a policy of providing the animals born at its facility with lifetime care, so zoos often trade, loan, or sell adult animals who aren’t making them as much money as when they were younger. Can you even imagine someone getting rid of you just because you weren’t a baby anymore?
These sad, unwanted animals may end up in roadside zoos or traveling circuses. Others are simply bought to be killed. For example, when baby animals who were displayed in the Minnesota Zoo’s farm exhibit grew up and didn’t attract as many visitors, the zoo took them to livestock auctions, where many ended up being sent to slaughter.
Many zoos claim that the reason why they exist and continue to breed animals is to help protect endangered species, but that’s not true. In fact, most animals in zoos aren’t endangered, and those who are will likely never be released into natural habitats.
Zoos and wildlife parks almost always favor big, “popular” animals while ignoring smaller animals who need protection. Plus, keeping animals in cages does nothing to help their species in the wild. If zoos really wanted to save animals from extinction, they would be helping protect animals’ natural habitats, not keeping them in prisons.
Possibly the biggest lie that zoos tell people is that by visiting them, people will learn about wild animals. But the only thing that zoos teach people is that it’s OK to keep animals in captivity—bored, cramped, lonely, and very far from home.
Most visitors spend only a few minutes at each display and learn very little about the animals they’re seeing. Signs outside displays barely cover more than an animal’s species, diet, and natural range. Animals’ “normal” behavior isn’t discussed often in zoos because they don’t get to live “normal” lives there. For example, birds’ wings may be clipped so that they can’t fly, aquatic animals often go without adequate water, and many animals who naturally live in large herds or family groups are kept alone or, at most, in pairs.
When you really think about it, zoos are basically just prisons that leave animals with no ways to defend themselves or escape dangerous situations. Animals in zoos all over the U.S. have been poisoned, been starved, been denied veterinary care, and even been burned in fires.
Other animals have died after eating trash that was thrown into their cages, and some animals have even been beaten or killed by people who stole them from their pens.
During natural disasters like floods, wildfires, and hurricanes, animals in zoos are often left without any help or ways to escape. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, most of the 10,000 aquatic animals at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans died after the power failed and employees were forced to leave.
Zoos will be forced to stop breeding and imprisoning animals if people stop buying tickets to them, so the most important way to help animals is simply to avoid going to zoos and ask everyone you know to do the same.
With today’s information on the Internet, educational TV programs, and film documentaries about animals, why should animals suffer so that we can look at them for a couple of minutes? The answer is simple: They shouldn’t!