The idea of zoos first came to the UK in the Elizabethan era when the queen would let the public view her collection of species, for free if they brought a dead pet to feed the animals. Since then, zoos have evolved and many now focus more on animal welfare rather than audience entertainment. Opinions on zoos still remain mixed with some people believing that no animal should be caged, and others feel that zoos are important for the preservation of many species.
From asking a selection of people how they felt about zoos one thing stood out, everyone thought that animal welfare was the most important thing and believed animals should be happy. The concept of using animals for human entertainment was what troubled most people.
Mervyn Patterson 65 said ‘in my humble opinion there is a need for zoos as long as the welfare of the animals comes before the public’s entertainment.’ He went on to say how ‘in an ideal world I would much prefer the animals in their natural habitat but as we all know, their world is under threat… some species would have disappeared had it not been for zoo’s breading schemes.’
It is true that many zoos across the world run successful breading programmes which help increase the population of endangered animals, there are only 45 Amur Leopards left in the wild, but there are 220 in conservation breeding programmes around the world.
Some people argue that the endangered species we are now trying to save are only in their current position due to human actions; scimitar-horned oryx are native to North Africa but now extinct in the wild due to human hunting.
Lesley Palin said ‘Perhaps we should go back to the beginning and respect their natural environment so that don’t need us the “preserve” them.’
Lorraine Pendleton agreed and said breeding programmes ‘alleviates the conscience… we want palm oil for cheap chocolate so we will destroy the forest but then have a conservation programme in a zoo.’
Other people argue that it is positive that we are now acting on our past behaviour and trying to make up for it as it is helping endangered species.
Using animals for entertainment is a very controversial idea because of the amount of animal cruelty which has occurred in the industry. We seem to enjoy watching animals acting like humans, doing tricks and posing for us to take photographs.
Andrea Thompson said she is torn on how she feels about zoos she said ‘I recognise my selfish reasons for loving zoos’ she is a photographer and says zoos provide perfect opportunities to photograph animals but she said ‘I don’t want my love of seeing and photographing animals to override the animal’s welfare.’
Some people believe that keeping animals in captivity is a violation of the animal’s rights to freedom and shows them no respect. A very common opinion is that it is only acceptable to keep an animal in captivity if it gets a better quality of life than it would in the wild. Some could argue that many zoos do this as the life expectancy increases in many species. However, another issue is that zoos only have a certain amount of space, nowhere near as much as some animals would have in the wild.
Charley Morton said she has mixed opinions on zoos and it depends on the particular one ‘Some zoos you can walk around and see that the animals are happy, looked after and have loads of space. Others they are all sleeping and have small enclosures.’
The most famous and controversial example of captive animals having little space is ‘SeaWorld’ in the US. All male and some female orcas in captivity have their dorsal fin collapse due to having so little space that they stay at the water’s surface which means gravity is pushing on the fin. Only 1% of orcas in the wild suffer from collapsed dorsal fins.
Overall, opinions on zoos vary, some people love them and are regular visitors, others are completely against them and would not support them. The one thing that everyone can agree on is that animals should be treated well and given everything they need.