Many of us who have visited zoos at least once wondered if tigers, elephants or monkeys should really be kept in an enclosure for the entertainment of people? How animals feel in zoos and animal shelters and what alternatives exist, read on.

According to members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), animals should not be kept in zoos. Keeping a tiger or lion in a cramped cage is bad for their physical and mental health. In addition, it is not always safe for people. In the wild, a tiger travels hundreds of kilometers, but this is impossible in a zoo. This forced confinement can lead to boredom and a particular mental disorder that is common to animals in zoos. If you have seen an animal displaying repetitive stereotypical behaviors such as rocking, swinging on branches, or endlessly walking around an enclosure, it is most likely suffering from this disorder. According to PETA, some animals in zoos chew on their limbs and pull out their fur, causing them to be injected with antidepressants.

A polar bear named Gus, kept at New York’s Central Park Zoo and euthanized in August 2013 due to an inoperable tumor, was the first zoo animal to be prescribed the antidepressant Prozac. He constantly swam in his pool, sometimes for 12 hours a day, or chased children through his underwater window. For his abnormal behavior, he received the nickname “bipolar bear”.

Depression is not limited to land animals. Marine mammals such as killer whales, dolphins and porpoises kept in marine parks also get serious mental health problems. As vegan journalist and activist Jane Velez-Mitchell muses in a 2016 Blackfish video exposé: “If you were locked in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d become a little psychotic?” Tilikum, the male killer whale featured in the documentary, killed three people in captivity, two of whom were his personal trainers. In the wild, killer whales never attack humans. Many believe that the constant frustration of life in captivity causes animals to attack. For example, in March 2019, at the Arizona Zoo, a woman was attacked by a jaguar after she climbed a barrier to take a selfie. The zoo refused to euthanize the jaguar, arguing that the fault lay with the woman. As the zoo itself admitted after the attack, the jaguar is a wild animal that behaves according to its instincts.

Shelters are more ethical than zoos

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Unlike zoos, animal shelters do not buy or breed animals. Their sole purpose is the rescue, care, rehabilitation and protection of animals that can no longer live in the wild. For example, the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand rescues and nurses elephants affected by the elephant tourism industry. In Thailand, animals are used in circuses, as well as for street begging and riding. Such animals cannot be released back into the wild, so volunteers take care of them.

Some zoos sometimes use the word “reserve” in their name to mislead consumers into thinking that the establishment is more ethical than it actually is.

Roadside zoos are especially popular in the US, where the animals are often kept in cramped concrete cages. They are also dangerous for customers, according to The Guardian, in 2016 at least 75 roadside zoos provided the opportunity to interact with tigers, lions, primates and bears.

“The number of roadside zoos that add the words “shelter” or “reserve” to their names has increased dramatically in recent years. Many people naturally go to places that claim to save animals and offer them sanctuary, but many of these zoos are nothing more than good word dealers. The main goal of any shelter or refuge for animals is to provide them with safety and the most comfortable living conditions. No legal animal shelter breeds or sells animals. No reputable animal sanctuary allows any interaction with animals, including taking photos with animals or taking them out for public display,” PETA reported.

Animal rights activists have made huge strides in recent years. A number of countries have banned circuses that use wild animals, and a number of major tourism companies have stopped promoting elephant rides, fake tiger sanctuaries and aquariums over animal rights concerns. Last August, New York’s controversial Buffalo Zoo closed its elephant exhibit. According to the International Organization for Animal Welfare, the zoo has been ranked in the “Top 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants” several times.

Last February, Japan’s Inubasaka Marine Park Aquarium was forced to close as ticket sales plummeted. At its best, the aquarium received 300,000 visitors a year, but as more people became aware of animal cruelty, that figure dropped to 40,000.

Some researchers believe that virtual reality may eventually replace zoos. Justin Francie, chief executive of Responsible Travel, wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook about developing the industry: “IZoo will not only be much more interesting than caged animals, but also a more humane way to raise money for wildlife conservation. This will create a business model that can last for the next 100 years, attracting today’s and tomorrow’s children to visit virtual zoos with a clear conscience.”

Yana Dotsenko

Source: Live Kindly