Yes, We Want to Change the Zoo World

OK.  There are upwards of 10,000 zoos worldwide. In them live millions of wild animals.

The zoos’ stated purpose? To conserve and educate.

The reality? Millions of wasted lives. Zoos are, all too often, about little more than entertainment and exploitation.

Should we bring the zoo industry to an end? In my view, yes, but slowly, humanely, with compassion and on a tide of changing public opinion that rejects the very concept of the zoo.

But what about the short-term? Won’t animal suffering increase if zoos are forced to close?

Let’s be clear. Some zoos should be shut as quickly as possible – the sort of zoos we at Born Free witness every day, every week, every month. We don’t have the power to close them down but the authorities often do and it is our mission to ensure that the authorities apply all relevant and available laws to end and prevent gross suffering and neglect- and of course, that they safeguard the welfare of the individual animals.

The application of the law is vital. But so is the provision of resources to deal with the fallout of zoo closure in a compassionate way. It is to Europe’s everlasting shame that there are, for example, more than 40 solitary elephants held in zoos and circuses across the region and yet we do not have a single, purpose-built elephant sanctuary where they could find refuge.

Necessarily, Born Free sometimes works with zoos but only when we are sure that our collaboration will not perpetuate suffering, make space for new animals and throw a lifeline to a zoo.

Zoos that commit to closure and to the humane relocation of the animals will find us a willing partner. Zoos that think we are a ‘soft touch’ when the welfare or life of an animal is at stake, are very mistaken.

Sometimes captivity is the only option. The lions, leopards, tigers, elephants, great apes, primates, cheetah and the many other species that have been relocated to the Sanctuaries we operate or support would, I am sure, agree. But we know it is second best. Animals that have been kept in zoos or circuses are rarely candidates for release to the wild so it is our responsibility to provide them with a life worth living.

But we should never confuse the concept of ‘sanctuary’ – where the welfare of the animals is given the highest priority – with the concept of zoo where animals are exhibits and the needs of visitors take precedence.

Yes, I want to change the world. To end the zoo experiment. To refocus our efforts and keep wildlife in the wild. I believe that vision is one that is shared by millions and now we must turn that dream into reality.

Blogging off


3 Responses to “Yes, We Want to Change the Zoo World”

  1. Derek Rankine Says:

    Well said! It is beyond comprehension what these animals suffer in zoos across the globe and that people would still want to visit such places in the 21st century. At least there are organisations such as Born Free fighting their corner.

  2. Required Says:

    I agree that some zoos are bad and should be closed, but without zoos many species would be extinct. Many zoo animals are captive bred too.

  3. beth Says:

    I have supported human beings on death row for over 20yrs since thier previous supporter passed on- walk into a prison- feel the iron gates clang behind, the cold stares, lustful stares, or mad stares of inmates trying to survive…then walk out…

    then picture any wild animal taken into captivity for ‘conservation’-clank- for its protection-clank- in a confined area -clank- going crazy- clank- with no one who speaks your language or looks like you-clank

    we punish huumans by confinement- we take away the love that nourishes a soul, isolate it from its peers and family – the soul dies many years before the body-

    we cannot then change this image to one of love , respect or empathy with other species when we enforce this same environment.

    ask any child in ‘care’ where it would long to be.. let us honestly use the correct terminology globally to hold to account each individual for thier own actions..

    Open the gates of Freedom, safe reserves not Zoos is probably a good place to start…