Animals that would normally live in the wild undoubtedly suffer when kept in captivity, from appalling roadside zoos to seemingly well-meaning safari parks. The complex needs of wild animals can not be met in artificial surroundings and many animals will show signs of psychological distress, such as depression, pacing and rocking.
For the average time of around 1.5 minutes that visitors will spend observing them, these creatures forego the chance of a normal life. Some will have been taken from their families in the wild and transported thousands of miles in distressing conditions. Their families can be killed in the process of their abduction. Those that are born in captivity still have natural instincts, which will be denied to them. A common problem with zoos and safari parks is their ‘breed and cull’ policy. This is where the animals are encouraged to breed to produce cute offspring to attract visitors, however this means that older and less desirable animals will then be killed. Captive families can also be ripped apart, with family members being sold to other establishments. Inbreeding is also a problem and this was recently highlighted at Longleat Safari Park, who admitted to encouraging breeding so that there would always be cubs on show, but then killing lions and cubs because of inbreeding.
Marius the giraffe brought the captivity issue to the headlines in 2014 when Copenhagen Zoo shot him in the head in front of school children and then dissected him before feeding him to lions. Marius was a healthy giraffe – his crime was to have genes that were already ‘well represented’. The zoo killed him despite there being many offers from establishments around the world offering to take him.
Some argue that we learn from animals in captivity; the truth is that animals kept in captivity present a sad parody of their wild relations.
Zoos can also encourage the belief, especially in children, that non-humans are here for our entertainment, when we should be teaching that they deserve our respect – and to be left alone to live their lives in peace and away from our gaze.
Read more about the plight of animals in captivity at the Captive Animals Protection Society website.
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