December 2, 2022


Debate on Zoo Ethicality

In the article, “Are Zoos Ethical?” (Upfront, Ashe, Marris 2022) I learned of the debate on whether zoos are ethical or not. There are over  200 zoos in the U.S. and recently, animal rights activists have started to question if they are ethical or not. On one side of the argument, zoos are not only ethical but also highly significant to conservation. Conservation breeding in zoos can help animals that are near extinction and increase the population of that species. Zoos also rescue endangered/injured animals and allow them to recover. Besides that, zoos can educate people on climate change and its effects on animals. On the other side of the argument, zoos are not ethical because the animals are not living in their natural habitats. There has been evidence that animals do not like being in captivity and develop compulsive behaviors because of it. There have even been some zoos that have used drugs on animals in order to maintain the mental effects of being in captivity. 

I personally think that it depends on what kind of zoo it is, to determine whether they are ethical or not. For instance, if it is a zoo that focuses on conservation, rehabilitation, and helping injured animals recover then I believe it is ethical because it is doing something good for the environment that is meant to improve the nature of the animals. If a zoo’s only purpose is for the pure enjoyment of humans though, I believe that is not ethical because why should an animal be kept in captivity solely for human enjoyment? 

Do you think zoos are ethical, why or why not?

Zoos do more harm than good

Humans have been displaying animals for entertainment for thousands of years. Zoos are overall great for people; being up close with creatures from all over the world that you’d normally never get to see. But when it comes to the animals, more harm is caused to them than good. These establishments should be eradicated or have different standards set for the wellbeing of the animals. 

The general goal of zoos is to educate people about the animals living there, but they are inhuman and bad for the animals. An article on KQED discusses the pros and cons of zoos, saying that not all zoos are equal. Some are clean, well kept, and humane, whereas others are unsanitary and cruel. Though some zoos work on animal conservation, rehabilitation, and education, they are few and far between. 

There is more bad than good in zoos all over the world. And there are many downsides to zoos which is reflected in the animals’ health. Captivity can be both physically and psychologically damaging for animals. Another article by PETAUK discusses the fact that “UK zoos and safari parks are on average 100 times smaller than the minimum home range for animals in their natural habitats” and along with this the stress and under-stimulation that animals have been put under causes “self-destructive behavior” such as pacing, walking in tight circles, rocking, swaying, or self-mutilation. And well, trying to conceal their distressed zookeepers will give the animals antidepressants, tranquilizers, or antipsychotic drugs. This issue is just one of the countless faced by zoo animals, other large issues deal with animals being taken from their homes, cages not stopping extension, failure to meet a minimum standard of care, and animals being trained to perform tricks. Zoos are not meant for the safety and care of animals but they are rather prisons denying freedom and fair treatment to these animals. 

In the long run zoos are more harmful than helpful to animals and there must be something larger done to stop the inhumane treatment of these amazing creatures in zoos worldwide. 


Lartaud, Derek. “Are Zoos Good or Bad for Animals?: KQED Education.” KQED, 1 Oct. 2019,

“9 Reasons Not to Visit Zoos.” PETA UK, 26 Apr. 2021,

“Ethics – Animal Ethics: Animals for Entertainment.” BBC, BBC,

Zoos won’t disappear in the future

Zoos won’t disappear in the future. Zoos have a wide range of uses, and it seems that zoos are also indispensable at present.The zoo exists not only to display animals, but also to protect some endangered species to some extent.  

Some species, such as pandas, have physical deficiencies and are difficult to survive without human intervention. The zoo also provides an opportunity for people to appreciate unusual animals on the spot. Animals live in different areas all over the world, so we can’t easily see the animals we are interested in. “There is no way you can appreciate the quiddity of an elephant except by seeing one at close quarters,”  Attenborough, the program owner of Seven Worlds, One Planet: conservation is the key to new Attenborough series told the Observer in Is it time to shut down the zoos?. Something is not specific enough at least you see them in person. The zoos provide animals with similar living conditions and we also can see them in person much easier. Many biological students and researchers also use the zoo to further study and understand the habits of animals. People go volunteer or work for experience of touching and understanding animals. As long as we have a good grasp of the degree and standards, research on animals will help animals survive better.

Some people think the existence of animals is unreasonable. Humans raise animals for selfish desires, animals should return to nature instead of being kept in a zoo for people to appreciate. In PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, they stated “Most animals confined in zoos are not endangered, nor are they being prepared for release into natural habitats” in Don’t zoos help to preserve endangered species?. In some zoos, animals are confined to a much smaller range of activities than in the wild. The quality of the zoo is uneven, and some animals are not well taken care of.

In my opinion, the existence of zoos is not a question of yes or no. Some endangered species need human intervention for protection, and some non-endangered species need to consider the conditions of the zoo’s location to consider release and other proper handling methods. Because of the different conditions in the region, our protection measures for animals should not be generalized.

Do Zoos Benefit Society?

While there are some cases of endangered species recovering from near extinction, studies have shown that living in zoos can negatively affect the animal’s mental and physical health. Zoos can help scientists and the general public learn more about animals. However, some say the amount of information gained from studying animals does not excuse the damage done. 

Zoos give people a chance to see animals that they would never see otherwise. Seeing them in person may motivate people to fight to preserve them. Many animals are taken in by zoos because they are injured or they would not be able to survive in the wild. Zoos also often have breeding programs that repopulate endangered species. 

While zoos do try to emulate the animals natural environment, they are often too small. Small enclosures have been shown to increase the infant mortality rate of polar bears to 65%. Animals raised in zoos may even develop depression or OCD. 

I believe zoos are more beneficial than detrimental to society. They often take in injured animals and because so many people go to zoos, they are able to connect with the animals. These connections can lead to donating to zoos, encourage people to volunteer, or even stop the issues that cause animals to need the safety of zoos.

Should we have Zoos?

Controversy has always been a topic around zoos and the humane aspect of keeping animals captive. Many people love going to zoos and seeing these animals, including myself. But in all reality, are these suitable living habitats for the animals? Also, is this fair to keep the animal away from their natural habitats for “protection”? 

There are countless zoos all around the world and have existed for centuries. These zoos attract over 181 million visitors annually, which is bigger than the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB combined. This provides a great learning experience for young kids and a fun attraction to see all of the wild animals. But these zoos don’t educate the public enough to justify keeping these animals captive.

But zoos also can help preserve species in danger from climate change and from other factors. Especially protecting endangered species. I believe that for the most part zoos are effective for scientific research and provide an adequate way to protect endangered animals.


In recent years, zoos have become a very controversial topic. Many argue that zoos should not exist because wild animals belong in the wild. Which is a valid argument besides the fact that the wild in which the wild animals belong is being destroyed by humans. 

Zoos do a great job in informing the public about endangered species and what needs to be done. If it weren’t for zoos many people would not know about various species and many animals would have possibly gone extinct due to people just not knowing about them. According to Dr. Dave Hone with the Guardian, “Many [species] are already extinct in the wild and only survive because of populations kept going in captivity.” It is important to realize that without zoos smaller animals that are not as popular as the elephant or the lion would have been long gone if it weren’t for zoos. Although these animals do not live out in the wild at least they are alive and are able to educate the public about similar smaller species like them who could possibly also go extinct. 

Climate change has become a serious problem for species in the Arctic. Animals such as the polar bear or arctic wolf are facing serious problems due to the shrinking ice in the Arctic. According to Dr. Dave Hone with the Guardian, “[C]limate change has already harmed over half of all mammal species on the endangered species list… and that is only likely to increase as more species are put under pressure from climate change and other environmental pressures.” Thanks to zoos, these animals have a future. Their future in the wild has become impossible due to the rapid changing they are experiencing in their environment. It is sad to think that in my own lifetime it is possible that an amazing, strong animal such as the polar bear could go extinct in its natural habitat and that the only thing keeping them on our Earth is zoos. I am grateful to zoos for protecting these animals and showing the public what amazing creatures we could lose if we don’t make a change. 

Not only are zoos good for conservation and education but they also help with helping wild animals. According to Dr. Robin Ganzert with Time Magazine many zoos are coming up with vaccines to give endangered wild animals who would otherwise die due to the disease. 

Many people believe that zoos are a horrible place where animals are abused and mistreated. This is NOT the case. An organization called The Humane Conservation Association is in charge of informing the public that the animals at a particular zoo is well taken care of and that the animals are happy. These standards are set by professionals who know about the animals. If the standards are not met then the organization will give suggestions and not pass the zoo. It is important to look for the Humane Conservation Association’s logo on the zoo’s website before going to that zoo to insure that the animals at that organization are happy and well taken care of.

Zoos do so much for animals around the world. It is important that we all realize how important zoos are to endangered animals along with informing the public about animals around the world.