Can you imagine being taken away from the only family and place you’ve called home to be forced to adjust to a completely different lifestyle than the one you’ve had your entire life? Every day, thousands of animals are captured from their habitats, and are forced to adapt to an entirely new life; a life where they may have to live inside a cage, in a tank, or surrounded by walls so different from their native homes. Millions of people every year pay to see, pet, and take pictures of unhappy animals.
There are over 10,000 zoos in the world where animals of every kind are confined and displayed to the public, similar to paintings in art museums. Animals should not be kept in captivity because it is cruel and unnatural, it results in human injuries and deaths, and it is not an effective way to educate our society. Firstly, it is disgustingly inhumane and cruel for animals to be forced to live in captivity. When animals are in the wild, they have a great deal of space to roam free, though when held in captivity that privilege is stolen from them.
Many places where animals are held in captivity cannot compare to the amount of space that the animals are used to in the wild. Many animals are kept in cages and others in tanks; these animals no longer have the freedom that they once had while living in the wild. Animals are used to swimming, flying, or walking for several hours and kilometers, but this action is restricted. For example, wild elephants generally walk up to 40 miles per day, though when held in captivity, this action is prevented because elephants are often chained up. Being chained up can also give elephants arthritis and several other severe joint and foot problems.
This gives the elephants an even more challenging lifestyle while living in captivity. Research also shows that tigers and lions in zoos have approximately 18,000 times less space than they have in the wild; polar bears have one million times less space. When living in captivity animals are often brutally injured by the other animals in their surroundings. When the animals are taken out of their habitat and put into somewhere where everything seems unfamiliar, it takes a long time to adjust to their new home, and the other animals in it. Blackfish”, a documentary about the lives of whales living in captivity, discovered that the whales are often attacked by one or several of the other whales in the tank, leaving the whales wounded. There was a case where a whale bled to death because it was attacked by several other whales. This clearly shows that the whale didn’t receive any proper treatment from the trainers. While in captivity the animals are often starved of food, or are given less food then the amount they would eat in the wild.
Also in “Blackfish”, it is said that killer whales are oftentimes starved by the trainers because they are not able to perform a specific act to perfection, which leaves the whales hungry and aggressive. In the wild, animals are hunted by their natural predators, and one would think that captivity would lengthen their life span because they are protected. However, while held in these facilities, it has been found that their life expectancy is shortened. Animals actually tend to have shorter life spans when living in captivity.
Killer whales living in captivity live around twenty-five to thirty years, though living in the wild they live close to one hundred years. Elephants living in captivity are usually dead before the age of forty, but in the wild they typically live sixty to seventy years of age. It is clear that numerous animals live lengthier lives in the wild, than they do in captivity. The cruelty that animals face while being held captive is astounding and unjustified. Not only is it unnatural and unsafe for animals to live in captivity, but it is also unsafe for humans.
Secondly, the danger of keeping animals in captivity also affects the trainers and audience. Zoos have been around since the late 1700s, and provide exceptionally great business from millions of visitors every year all over the world. It is not only specifically zoos that are visited; there are also roadside zoos, park zoos, public zoos, wild animal parks, etc. While zoos make millions of dollars by attracting people of all ages, it is extremely life threatening for the millions of people that visit each year.
Throughout the years since zoos have been around, there have been several cases in which the deaths of animal trainers and bystanders have been reported. In December 2007 at a San Francisco zoo, a 17 year old bystander was mauled to death by a tiger, trying to save his friend who was being attacked by the tiger. The 17 year old man died and 2 others were injured when the tiger had somehow escaped from its cage. The investigation concluded that the walls surrounding the tigers den were far below the recommended height.
In the year of 2011, at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, a 33 year old zoo trainer named Stephanie James was crushed to death by an elephant. The African elephant, weighing approximately 8,000 pounds, overpowered James with its humungous body and crushed her into the steel wall within the elephants stall. On February 24, 2010 at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, 40 year old Dawn Brancheau was killed while she was performing with a whale, as the audience watched in horror. During the performance the whale grabbed Dawn by the arm and continuously pulled her underneath the water.
The whale’s name was Tilikum, there had been two previous deaths by Tilikum before Dawn’s in the year of 2010. Tilikum weighed 12,000 pounds and very few of the SeaWorld Trainers could work with him. The deaths of spectators and trainers show that animals should be left in their natural habitats where they cannot cause as much harm to people as they do in captivity. Along with the great danger the trainers and spectators are in, keeping animals in captivity is a danger to society’s education. Lastly, animals held in captivity are not a good way to educate society.
There are millions of people that visit zoos every year, and it is often children who are the most amused. Zoos can give people, especially people of a young age, the wrong ideas about how animals should be treated. Zoos may lead children to think that it is acceptable to take wild animals out of their natural habitat, and care for it. Wild animals taken into people’s care could not only cause great harm to the people but to the animal themselves. When trainers are doing performances and being hands on with the animals, spectators are amazed at their skill and often want to imitate it.
Trainers interact with a variety of animals and people may think they are able to re-enact what trainer’s do when they cannot. A non-trainer interacting with a non-trained wild animal will most likely end up in an unfortunate injury. People looking on could also think that it is okay for animals to spend most of their day locked up, with little space to roam free and without any interaction with species of their own kind. When in fact, animals deserve the exact opposite.
Though exposing children to the animals seen in zoos can give them an awareness of a variety of different species, this is falsely showing children that keeping animals in captivity is acceptable. In conclusion, it is inhumane and cruel to keep animals in captivity. It is uncomfortable and unnatural for them, can result in numerous human injuries and it not an efficient way to educate our society about the animals living in our world. Those who disagree with this position should be informed of the horrible things that occur where animals are held captive such as zoos, aquariums, and circuses.
There are thousands upon thousands of animals living in these dreadful conditions in many parts of the world, there needs to be a change in humanity if we as human beings want a change to arise. Informing people about the animals living in captivity and what happens to them when the doors are closed would bring us as a society closer to releasing all these beautiful, intelligent, and talented creatures into the wild. With help, we can create a better universe, because as Peter Singer quotes, ‘We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. “