Ask Catherine: The Issue with Zoos

by Catherine Arjet

opinions editor

Hi Everyone! Welcome back to “Ask Catherine,” where I answer any questions you might have for me. This week, I’m talking about zoos and their moral implications. Remember, if you want my advice, opinion or thoughts on anything, you can always ask here.

Q: How do you feel about zoos? A: First off, let me just say I’m not an animal lover. Never have been, never will be. However, because I have a heart, I don’t think unnecessary cruelty to animals is okay at all. I think zoos walk a fine line between being useful, good for animals, and educational, and making animals miserable for our entertainment. On one extreme, you have rescue zoos that only take in animals that were found in places they shouldn’t be and weren’t fit to be returned to the wild. For example, the zoo I went to as a kid was a rescue zoo which had two tigers that were found wandering around Lake Michigan. Not only were they declawed, but they had never learned to hunt. Had they been released into the wild, they would have died. Even if they had been able to hunt, they would have been in an ecosystem that didn’t have room for big predators and they could have tipped the balance of the whole system. These zoos, I think, are doing nothing but good in the world.

On the other extreme, you have places like SeaWorld which, until very recently, bred orca whales for entertainment and kept them in tiny pools their whole lives. As much as I love SeaWorld, I have to admit that is wrong. However, I do feel like there’s a pretty solid midrange of zoos that are a little ethically questionable but overall do more good than harm. For example,

many zoos breed endangered animals, which, of course, helps keep them from going extinct. But zoos keep them in areas far to small or allow people to crowd around them, which upsets them. Stepping away from just animal wellbeing, zoos can also be places where children can see animals they never would have gotten to see otherwise and help them learn about them. Not only is this good for the kids’ education, it might also spark some future interest in animals and the environment. As they say, the children are our future, and if they don’t care about exotic and endangered animals, how long will those animals last?

Over all, I think zoos are good. The educate and they can serve to further conservation and research. While I know some animal rights activists have issues with them and the treatment of animals, the good out weighs the bad. As they say, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.