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Ethics of Zoos


I was guaranteed a fifth-grade trip to the Philadelphia Zoo as a child, and the entire year I waited for the day my fifth-grade class would be able to see exotic animals. Of course, as a kid, my brain couldn’t comprehend how a zoo could harm the animals – the only thing I understood was that I could see a big, brave lion. In America, over 181 million people visit zoos every year, and not every zoo is abusive, but many are. So, what are the true pros and cons of zoos? 

Of course, not all zoos are healthy for animals, but there are also positives to zoos. To start, zoos are a large part of animal conservation and can be extremely helpful for endangered species. Many endangered animals can benefit in captivity, where they can be bred to grow a population. For example, the Philadelphia Zoo is, as described on its website, “a pioneer in animal care and conservation.” Also, zoos are very valuable for extensive research. Richard Moore, a researcher at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, says that “the research [his] colleagues and [he] conduct[s] isn’t harmful and, if it goes well, it will help [them] get a better grasp on the cognitive differences between humans and apes.” 

Now, let’s get into the negatives of zoos. While for endangered species, captivity can be beneficial, generally being confined is not adequate for animals’ instincts/lives. In captivity, it is reported that animals can pace back and forth, experience aggression, and engage in self-mutilation. Sadly, in many cases, the animals are abused. They are likely only viewed as profit and not respected as living things. While it is least likely for animals to be physically abused, beaten, or kicked, it is still possible. However, a more common form of abuse in zoos is inadequate living conditions. For example, tigers and lions have around 18,000 times less space in captivity than in the wild. 

To conclude, it may be up to one’s own opinion to decide whether zoos are truly ethical or not. Despite the several pros and cons of zoos and their ethicality, a multitude of zoos are pursuing an ethical approach, including our local zoo in Philadelphia.

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Alcott
Charlotte Alcott, Staff Writer
Charlotte Alcott is currently a freshman at Quakertown Community High School. This is her first year as a Paw Prints staff writer. Charlotte enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with friends. She loves all things Fall, especially the show Gilmore Girls. She is excited to better her writing skills and learn about journalism this year!

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