Omar Ram (Free to use under the Unsplash License)

Sanctuaries vs. zoos: part one

Many questions arise when discussing the treatment of animals in each form of captivity. There are differences and similarities for each that point toward one being ultimately the best or worst option. 

Zoos have their positive aspects as well as negative. It can be the first experience children have seeing animals they typically wouldn’t encounter in their environment. Some zoos have programs for animal rescue and ways to donate. There are two groups of zoos either labelled accredited, more reputable, or nonaccredited, “roadside”. 

Accredited zoos focus more towards educating the public and caring for the animals. There are certain standards to be met for these kinds of zoos, but ones that are not accredited don’t have to abide by such measures. Roadside zoos often leave the animals at risk of overbreeding and therefore make the zoo overcrowded. Once they reach a certain capacity, the animals are then sold to other zoos and circuses. Circus animals typically don’t live a very long life because of the poor treatment they endure.

When people visit zoos, they have a certain expectation to be entertained and awed, so the animals are supposed to be more energetic. With that in mind, the zoos disregard elderly animals and over breed certain species to have a constant supply of baby animals to draw in more crowds. Behaviors or tricks are trained to zoo animals to perform for audiences just like at a circus. Sea animals are commonly being exploited this way for the sole purpose of entertaining humans. 

Zoos will buy, sell, trade, or even capture animals from their habitats. Individual enclosures for these animals can be severely compact compared to what they would have access to in the wild. According to Freedom for animals, this will begin to cause behavior problems in many of the animals. 

There can be an argument made for these institutions being a source of education for the public. While there is a possibility to learn more about certain animals, a lot of zoos and aquariums don’t have the best information displayed about the species, if any at all. What people most likely take away from their experience is the thought that using animals for entertainment is okay. 

Sanctuaries aren’t perfect by any means, but they are at least able to draw the line between animal exploitation and animal rescue. 

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