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Here's What's Wrong with Zoos

The stress of captivity, and the lethargy induced by confinement, often lead to neurotic behaviors such as pacing and self-mutilation

1) Zoos are animal prisons. No more euphemisms!

2) When people say, "But zoos save endangered animals," the truth is, 99 percent of all the animals at the zoo are UNENDANGERED. If zoos were only saving endangered animals, no one would complain. But zoos are a business. In fact, zoos are usually the number-one tourist attraction in every state.

3) No matter how "natural" they make the animals' caged-in areas, once zoos RE-CREATE an area, it is NOW artificial and UNNATURAL. No amount of architecture can RE-CREATE a NATURAL habitat of old-growth forests, fallen branches, plant species and other animal species—least of all, a habitat providing adequate room for the animals to roam.

4) When people say, "But the zoo is so educational for children, they learn so much," the truth is, "The only thing kids learn at the zoo is that giraffes have long necks, zebras are black and white and the monkeys have pink butts! PERIOD!" There is NO education taking place in zoos except the cruel indoctrination of misguided values into children, telling them that it is okay to dominate and enslave animals and put them on display for amusement, entertainment and follies. It is much more educational to read the research of primatologist Dian Fossey, or that of others who've actually studied animals in their natural habitats and truly learned about their natural behaviors. Or one can learn about animals from documentaries, such as Planet Earth. But one cannot learn about animals who are in UNNATURAL habitats displaying UNNATURAL behaviors from the stress of confinement and lethargy of captivity, which can also lead to neurotic behaviors like pacing and self-mutilation.

5) Zoos are created for PEOPLE, not animals. Take the Detroit Zoo and look at all the space for picnics and the refreshment areas and the trolley/train. Meanwhile, the animals are being driven insane in their TINY enclosures.

6) If zoos really cared about animals, then why do they serve DEAD animals at the refreshment areas? Seems to me that if the zoo was trying to teach kindness and respect for animals, the least they could do is make sure people aren't eating dead ones in a bun. The zoo would be an ideal place for vegan food—if it weren't otherwise abusing the animals whom it puts on display rather than serving up as edible commodities!

7) When people say, "But animals are being poached in the wild and they live longer lives in captivity," the truth is, "a life doesn't magically become happier just because it's longer!" (In fact, the truth about life spans is actually the reverse for larger species such as elephants, dolphins and orcas.) And poaching can be solved if we crack down on poaching, make hunting illegal ― since poachers are hunters and that's where they learned the bloodsport of killing animals with guns and arrows ― as well as protect animal habitat and start sharing this planet with our four-legged companions. The solution to poaching is NOT removing animals from their land; it is removing poachers from the land. It is also done through teaching people about the vegan lifestyle. If people were vegans, there wouldn't be a need for ivory, seal penises (aphrodisiacs) and whale blubber. It always comes back to veganism. If natural habitat is being demolished through sprawl, the solution is to STOP destroying natural habitat, not removing animals from their natural places of freedom and putting them into cages and other enclosures.

Artwork by Roger Olmos • Courtesy of Roger Olmos, FAADA (http://www.faada.org/) and Logos Edizioni

8) Zoos should be transformed into sanctuaries. And that means no more visitors. No more picnic areas. No more huge walkways. No more refreshment areas. Let these animals live out their lives by giving them EVERY INCH of space on the grounds and then build ONE virtual reality auditorium where people can come and take a virtual ride through the jungles of Tanzania or the wastelands of Asia.

9) Nearly every zoo sells its "surplus" animals to canned hunting farms or research labs or circuses. And most zoos have circus acts where animals perform asinine tricks in mini arenas. "Surplus" animals are the older animals whom no one wants to gawk at any longer. The reason there are breeding programs at zoos is to make sure there are always baby animals in order to attract a bigger crowd. No one wants to see old elephants or old zebras but EVERYBODY wants to see baby elephants and baby zebras. In defense of the Detroit Zoo and Ron Kagan, Ron changed these practices at the Detroit Zoo. The Detroit Zoo no longer has animal acts or sells any animals to hunting farms, labs or circuses. Kagan is without a doubt the most progressive zoo director on this planet. In May of 2004, Kagan even agreed to release the elephants at the Detroit Zoo to an elephant sanctuary.

10) Without freedom there is no reason to exist! Zoos have taken away the animals' freedom and made them living skeletons. The pride is gone. The will to thrive has vanished. The feeling of happiness faded. The thrill of endless miles of roaming has been usurped. Every thing that is natural to an animal, has been made UNNATURAL by the state-sanctioned animal prison system that operates for one reason and one reason alone: the almighty dollar.

11) People love to talk about animals at the zoo having veterinary care, as if that justifies their imprisonment. Prisoners have medical care, but that doesn't make people want to line up and book vacations to federal penitentiaries! Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay also have medical care, but I don't think people are planning Christmas vacations to this Cuban facility. Of course animals at zoos have vet care. Without a "product" to put on display, one cannot make a profit. Animals are fed and watered and receive medical treatment. Still they have no freedom, and no forests. For more information on imprisoned animals, check out Canada’s Zoo Check organization. As for marine zoos, such as SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, watch stand-up comic Doug Stanhope sarcastically and truthfully explain the psychosis of aqua-prisons, or check out the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations website.

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