Are Zoos Cruel?


Pippa Harpster, Journalist

If you think about it, the idea of a zoo sounds pretty terrible. Animals put in display enclosures, taken away from their natural environment, and held against their will. But it’s not as bad as it sounds like it would be, right?
Of course, in actuality, zoos aren’t that bad. They make sure the animals are fed and happy. Zoos are said to be educational, good rehabilitation homes for endangered species, and great places for scientists to study animals. A good amount of animals in zoos are born in captivity, meaning they weren’t ever taken away from their natural habitat. But the animals that were taken, are limited to a habitat that sometimes barely even compares to their natural habitat. Animals like cheetahs have hundreds to thousands of miles of territory in the wild but are reduced to 100-foot enclosures in zoos.

The reduced amount of space in the enclosures can actually have very negative effects on the animals. Animals can experience stress just as severely as humans. But because humans have developed coping mechanisms and have things to look forward to, we know how to handle that stress. Animals, on the other hand, don’t. Animals can’t think of things like the future, and being able to think of things like that would be pretty handy when hundreds of people are staring at you. The animals can develop a mental illness known as zoochosis. This quote, “Some think that it’s a type of coping mechanism while others believe that it’s a brain dysfunction caused by stress.” is taken from the article, Zoochosis: The Disturbing Thing That Happens to Animals in Captivity. What it means is that the scientists that are studying animals with zoochosis, either think it is a type of coping mechanism for the stress, or mental illness brought on by stress.

The U.S has laws protecting animals in captivity, making it so that the animals quality of life is good. But many other countries around the world have little to no laws about that. Animals in zoos in other countries may have a tiny cage they can barely move around in, be very malnourished, or even become deathly sick when they are young. While the U.S has better laws than a number of countries, it’s laws aren’t entirely protective either. The AWA, (Animal Welfare Act), makes it so that the animals in zoos must be fed, watered, and provided with shelter. But cages can have concrete floors, and there is no requirement for grass/greenery for the animals.
One of the pros of zoos is that they provide education for children and a place to study/re-populate endangered species. Children to see many new beings and species. While those are amazing things zoos provide, do they really provide them?

So, in conclusion, zoos have many pros. But their cons are even more common. Are zoos cruel? I think they can be, do you?