When I was a kid, I often went to the zoo. It was the summer outing for me and my siblings. My parents used to pack for a picnic and we spent the whole day watching animals, feeding them and taking photos.
Already, from a young age, I never liked it. I was wondering why were they in a cage or why were they chained or behind glass. I was scared and sad. I asked my dad why, he answered that they were wild and they could harm us. ‘‘So why are we keeping them here?’’ I asked and ‘‘For us to know them, to watch them freely,’’ he answered.
But far from reassuring me, his anwers provoked many other thoughts in my small head. It did not convince me and grew up with the strong feeling that it was all wrong, that is was just SELFISH.
A zoo is not a refuge and a zoo is not a natural reserve, a zoo is a prison for animals
I believed and still do that zoos, besides circus, aquariums or entertainment shows using animals, are cruel and immoral. An elephant is chained for days without food before it is used domestically. Mothers are separated from their cubs at birth in order for humans to domesticate them or make money by selling them. In circus, their lives are even more miserable. Animals are kept in tiny cages till they die, they are taken from a place to another and even displayed in their tiny cages on the side of the road, in different cities, for ‘marketing purposes’. A lion is asked to jump through a burning hoop, a monkey is taught to smile and juggle and a horse to dance. Just for human pleasure and a few laughs.
People often ask me why I make a big noise about this, well simply because I feel pain to see them behind bars with no reasons but our own greed and entertainment.
I feel sad when I see elephants chained just for us to feed or wash them, or a lion drugged to death so that we can caress him and take a picture that will get us a thousand like on Facebook. I did all of that with my friends and my family, composed of the majority of people who just ‘dont care’ and I just felt more sick about it.
Some people say animals are kept in zoos so that we can save them. But save them from what? That’s the question I still ask myself. I dont think any animal would like to be imprisoned, chained and taken to an environment that is the opposite of their natural habitat.
In the recent past, we heard numerous examples of incidents in zoos where people and kids fell in the cage. The human being more important, the animals were ones that had to suffer and sometimes even killed to save the human. In some parts of the world, especially in Asia, some zoos went bankrupt and animals literally were left in cage till they die of hunger. These were not stories, these were news based on real facts.
Zoos dont serve conservation, it’s a business
Why is it harmful for animals to be kept in zoos ? First because they have no space to live. A tiger, for example, requires 62 kilometres of land as his territory. Secondly because it impacts them mentally, oh yes! an animal can actually feel, many psychologists have studied behaviors and written papers and thesis on this. Similarly keeping birds without allowing them to fly, or big cats without allowing them to hunt is against their natural behaviour or habitat and can be called inhumanity.
Zoos dont practice conservatism, they will never release animals in the wild, they just want to grow them in numbers and eventually sell them to other zoos, separate packs and make money. It’s a business indeed.
Recently I was reading an article by PETA saying that a major reason that zoos choose to breed animals is because people love seeing babies. A new baby can draw in zoo visitors and boost revenue. However, the animals’ fate is often bleak once they outgrow their “cuteness.” Zoos often become crowded, and older animals may be kept in warehouses behind the scenes or shuffled off to shabby roadside zoos, animal dealers, or auctions.
A small step
Sometimes, I like playing roles and imagine animals were humans. Oh wait, the humankind has already thought of that and had been exhibiting Africans and other tribals, chained in exhibitions and zoos for white people to see them. Zoos are just the same, it’s only about the human nature to dominate the other.
There is not much one can do to put some sense in people’s mind. It’s only when nature will die that one will start realising. Sadly, zoos are used as an educational tool by most parents and schools to teach kids about animals. Start teaching them about morals and care. If you want to show them animals, watch a nice documentary on Nat Geo or simply take them to a natural reserve in the country you live or you plan to visit. There, animals are kept in their natural habitat and roam around freely. You might or you might not see them at all, but isn’t it the law of nature ?
Many documentaries were made to criticise the unethical practices, many voices were raised against zoos around the world but little will really work out till people themselves stop being selfish.
I did not write this to advocate for animal rights or to be a moraliser, I did it because I maybe just like you, gave money to zoos, aquarium and circus in the past. But it’s never to late to stop and to educate your own kids to respect nature. It’s never easy to go against the majority, it’s never easy to be consistent in a society that influence you so much, but it starts with small steps. And mine is to never go to the zoo again.