LTTE: Life behind bars – animal captivity

Janet Barrientos

Zoos are prisons for animals. If you look at the overall concept of zoos, it’s a justifiable way of internment camps for animals. Due to these extremities, zoos should be shut down or follow stricter standards. There are emotional and physical struggles that animals undergo when they are in an unnatural habitat in confinement. Animals in zoos display signs of stress and boredom, and the same signs may lead to depression or psychoses according to a study done in Animal Science Technology. These cases cannot be ignored.

Keeping animals in captivity causes immense mental suffering to the species put on display for our pleasure. According to Mason Club from the Animal Science Technology Journal, a study carried out over four decades and involved the analysis of over 1,000 journal articles published worldwide found that wide-ranging carnivores like polar bears, cheetahs, lions, and tigers are so negatively affected by captivity. Zoos should stop containing animals altogether or at least fundamentally change the conditions under which they are kept. “Our study reveals species that are inherently likely to fare badly in zoos and similar establishments,” Club said.


The limitation between the spaces that is provided in a natural habitat compared to the confined cement walls of a zoo provides proof a crucial problem. Zoos will never be able to provide sufficient space. The comparison is an immeasurable difference. This is the case for those species that roam larger distances in their natural habitat. Tigers and lions have around 18,000 times less space in zoos than they would in the wild. Polar bears have one million times less space, as a result, polar bears in zoos spend about 25 percent of their day pacing or swimming in circle which causes signs of stress and lack of exercise, according to Liberation BC a nonprofit animal activist organization whose purpose is to end animal suffering.

The confined space and lack of exercise lead to health issues. According to the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, “75 percent of elephants were overweight and only 16 percent could walk normally, the remainder having various degrees of lameness. Less than 20 percent were totally free of foot problems.” Elephants are among many animals that deal with the most distress. “Elephants live about 16-18 years in captivity, while in the wild they can live upwards of 50 years.” This difference is too significant to be ignored.

Stress is a primary source of misery for most animals. Studies done by Kathleen Morgan and Chris Tromborg from the Conservation, Enrichment and Animal Behaviour Journal state,“one of the behavioral opportunities that is limited for animals in captivity is their ability to move away from one another or from human passers-by. The lack of sufficient retreat space is a significant potential stressor for captive animals.” Physiological indicators also suggest that at least in some cases, human proximity is stressful for captive animals.

Stress and the confinement of zoo animals are topics that can be seen by the public when going to these establishments, although what is not see are the “surplus animals that are either killed and fed to other animals or sold to other zoos and private dealers. They may also be sold to the public online, exotic meat companies, pet shops, circuses, or hunting ranches,” Club reveals in Zoo Animals Captured. When babies are born, bringing in legions of new customers, it is the older, less popular animals that pay that price, a result that leads to torture and death according to Mason Club.

In contrast, there has always been defense that zoos are great outlets for conservational purpose, and they provide safer environments to endangered species. But studies show that “fewer than 5 percent to 10 percent of zoos, dolphinariums, and aquariums are actually involved in what would qualify as substantial conservation programs either in the wild or in captive settings, and even then, the amount spent on these programs is a ‘mere fraction’ of their overall income,” according to Liberation BC. Captive Animal Protection Society further acknowledges at least 750,000 animals live in zoos around the world, while only 1,000 of the 6,000 species are actually threatened or endangered. If conservation of endangered species is the reason for zoos, then only that 1,000 need to be held in captivity.

Animals in zoos live a lifestyle in an inhumane manner, although we as a public pay to see these lives confined and continue to develop more and more health issues. To improve living conditions for animals everywhere become a member of The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, AZA, a globally recognized brand representing the best of the world’s aquariums and zoos. They are fighting that zoos adhere to a strict ethics code which restricts the transfer of animals only to other accredited zoos or unaccredited zoos which have shown the “expertise, records management capabilities, financial stability, and facilities required to properly care” for them. Keep the conversation going about the suffering that animals across America, and the world, and take action toward humanity.

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