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Synthesis Essay; Are Zoos Ethical or Not?

Over the years, there has been a heated debate over the ethicality of zoos. Some people argue that they are an important tool for conservation, while others claim that they are nothing more than prisons for animals and a capitalist idea to make money. Thus, the issue of zoos is complex.

The main motive of this paper is to investigate the ethicality of zoos by examining both sides of the argument and providing a conclusion based on facts. Using three sources-two that support the position that zoos are unethical and one that takes the opposite position, this paper will explore the pros and cons of zoos to conclude their ethicality. The first part of this paper will explore the arguments for zoos being unethical. The second part will explore the arguments against zoos being ethical. And the third and final part of this paper will conclude by providing a clear stand on the ethicality of zoos.

Zoos have been around for centuries, with the first one opening in Vienna, Austria in 1752. Zoos were created to allow people to see animals up close and learn about them. However, over the years, zoos have come under much scrutiny for their ethicality. Many people argue that zoos are nothing more than prisons for animals and that they should be shut down. Others argue that they are an important tool for conservation.

The first argument against zoos is that they are prisons for animals. One of the main reasons people argue this is because animals in zoos are often kept in small spaces or in enclosures that do not resemble their natural habitats.

“A zoo in the United States kept an African lion in an enclosure that was only four feet wide and sixteen feet long. This is not enough space for an animal that would normally roam up to 100 miles a day” (Browning et al).

Animals in zoos often exhibit abnormal behaviors, such as pacing back and forth or spinning in circles, because they are not in their natural habitats. They also exhibit these behaviors because they are often in captivity for long periods and do not have access to natural sunlight or fresh air. These animals become uneasy and could even die if they are not given the space they need.

“It is cruel to keep animals in zoos. Animals should be free to roam in their natural habitats and not be locked up in cages” (Coe, Sue).

Another argument against zoos is that they are a capitalist idea to make money. Many zoos charge people to visit them, and some even have restaurants and gift shops. In fact, in the United States, it is estimated that zoos bring in around $2 billion a year. Therefore, it is a form of exploitation to make money off animals. Many zoos make a lot of money from tourists who want to see animals up close. The animals in zoos are often used as attractions, and the zoos can make a lot of money from people who want to take pictures with them or feed them.

Zoos are also unethical because they are unnecessary. There is no scientific evidence that shows that zoos help conservation. Many zoos have been known to breed animals and then donate them to other zoos, which does nothing for conservation. Zoos also often get animals from the wild, which can be dangerous for the animals. For instance, to get a white tiger, a zoo might capture a tiger from the wild and then breed it with a white tiger, which is an endangered species. This can do more harm to the animals than good.

Although there are many arguments against the ethicality of zoos, there are also arguments that support it. For instance, the first argument in support of zoos is that they are an important tool for conservation. Animals in zoos can be used to breed new animals and help preserve their species. In some cases, zoos are the only place where certain animals can be found. For example, there are no tigers in the wild anymore, but there are still tigers in zoos.

Zoos can also help educate people about animals.

“Many zoos have educational programs that teach people about the animals in their zoos. Such programs include information about the animals’ natural habitats and how to protect them. Thus, zoos can play an important role in conservation” (Väljataga et al).

Also, zoos provide funds for conservation projects. For instance, the World Wildlife Fund has a program that helps preserve tigers, and a large part of the funding for this program comes from zoos.

In conclusion, zoos are unethical because they are prisons for animals, they are a form of exploitation, and they are unnecessary. However, they can also be an important tool for education. There are many other ways through which animals can be conserved. For instance, people can donate money to organizations that help protect animals, or they can volunteer their time to work at a sanctuary. Many animal sanctuaries do not have an admission charge, and people can visit these sanctuaries to learn more about the animals. Sanctuaries are much better places for animals than zoos because they have more space, natural sunlight, and fresh air. Animals also don’t have to be in captivity for long periods, so they’re much more comfortable. In addition, sanctuaries don’t make money off of the animals as zoos do. People across the world should stand firm against the capitalistic intentions of zoos and promote sanctuaries as the only ethical way to view animals. Thus, in regards to the unethicality of zoos, they should be the last resort in the efforts of conservation of animals.

Works Cited

Browning, Heather, and Walter Veit. “Freedom and animal welfare.” Animals 11.4 (2021): 1148.

Coe, Sue. Zooicide: Seeing Cruelty, Demanding Abolition. AK Press, 2018.

Väljataga, Terje, and Kadri Mettis. “Turning zoos into smart learning ecosystems.” IxD&A 39 (2018): 114-133.


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