Animal captivity has been a debating topic for decades. There are two contrasting views on animal captivity. The animal activists believe there is no ethics to captivate the animals in the zoos, and circuses depriving them of their natural habitat. On the other, wildlife conservationists believe that animal captivity is essential for different purposes like conserving the rare and endangered species through in-situ conservation, for scientific study purposes, for recreational purposes, and many more. Moreover, Learmonth (2019) states, “Zoos are not ethically wrong.” Furthermore, Keulartz (2015) explains, “Zoos need to balance conservation credibility with commercial viability; to reach the aim of species conservation, they need to attract visitors.” Thus, zoos are sought as the in-situ conservation method that conserves the species and provides recreational opportunities. Moreover, circuses are also deemed as the platform that allows the recreational opportunities to the visitors. However, zoos can at least be beneficiaries of endangered animals’ survival by increasing breeding in captivity. However, circuses serve only one purpose, and that is a commercial one. Nevertheless, the animals should not be caged in zoos and circuses because it deprives the animals of their freedom, it destroys animals’ natural habit and increases the stress in the animals.
The first reason animals should not be caged in zoos and circuses is that it deprives them of their freedom. The zoos and circuses are like prisons to the animals. Moreover, the animals are forced to reside within the enclosure and restrict their activities within the cage. However, the advocates of the captivity of animals are often seen to assert that freedom is not the necessary needs to the animals. “Defenders of zoos sometimes claim that freedom is not in the interest of animals” (Wickins-Dražilová, 2006). However, the speculation about the animals not desiring freedom is nothing but a ridiculous thought. The harm imposed on the animals by captivating them and usurping their desire for freedom could never be compensated by producing beneficial biological results at the species or population level (Minteer & Collins, 2013). Thus, the statement of Minteer and Collins can be summarized by stating that no matter how good or desired results the captivated centers might concede, the animal’s right to freedom can never be given it back. For instance, animal captivity can be compared with human captivity. If there ever happens to study the human behavior or increase their population by breeding them in captivity, there would hardly be consent from the human to adopt that kind of practice. Moreover, one individual would never risk their right to liberty for the beneficence of the other individuals by giving consent to reside in the captivity. Though there is a difference between humans and animals, the desire for freedom and living life within the natural habitat with the family is also a mutual feeling of almost every animal. The animals cannot express their emotions lucidly compared to the humans, but it does not mean that animals should be caged for scientific study and is a means to a recreational event for the human races. Furthermore, there are different methods through which scientific research about the animals can be conducted with the ex-situ conservation approaches. Moreover, breeding centers can be given more priority over zoos and the population can later be reintroduced in the wild. Though this kind of practice has already prevailed in every nation, zoos and circuses are seemed to be given more priority. On the other hand, animal captivity for the circuses should be immediately banned as the animals are not entertainment tools but are just like human beings who want to survive in their favorable habitat.
The second reason animals should not be caged in zoos and circuses is that it destroys animals’ natural habits. The animals are born with their natural habits in the wild. There exist freedom, fear, competition for survival, intimacy, and many more that makes any animal adapt accordingly in their natural habitat. However, the animals that have been caged in zoos or tamed for the circuses’ purposes are exposed to the unnatural habitat which they should adopt to survive. Several studies have depicted the changes in the patterns of animals when they are exposed back to their natural environment. “There are also ethological and environmental problems with reintroduction” (Wickins-Dražilová, 2006). A reintroduction is an approach of introducing the wild population back to their natural habitat, from where they have been long extinct or extirpated. The endangered animals captivated in the zoos for reintroduction purposes have demonstrated that the animals cannot adapt back to their natural habitat. Furthermore, Kreger and Hutchins (2010) have stated in their study that reintroduced populations of wildlife should survive in the wild by acquiring foods, avoiding the enemies, maintaining the interaction with the environment, and many more. However, the animals raised or kept in the zoos or circuses are not exposed to their natural predators, are given food without any struggle, and are not made to interact with the environment. Thus, these kinds of activities that zoos and circuses conduct are manipulating and destroying the natural habit of wild animals. Furthermore, most of the animals that are meant to be reintroduced back to the natural habitat are born in captivity centers. Thus, those animals are not acquainted with the struggle to survive in the wild. Griffin et al. (2000) believes that the animals are suffered, led to a quick death, that are caged in the captivity centers and later reintroduced in their natural habitat. Thus, the captivity centers and circuses manipulate the animals’ natural habits, making them vulnerable to survive in their natural habitat.
The final reason animals should not be caged in zoos and circuses is that it increases the animals’ stress. There have been some contrasting views on captivity centers and their impact on stress to the animals. Agoramoorthy and Harrison (2002) have stated the ideal situation for any animal to act normally. Furthermore, they state that the animals should be provided with sufficient food and water, there should be clean surroundings within the cages to minimize any potential infections, there should be good shelter to expose them to extreme weather, and the staff of the captivity centers should care the animals to reduce the stress of the animals. However, it does not sound good while going through the statement elaborated by Agoramoorthy and Harrison as they were talking about the ideal situation. Moreover, their words would not offer much justice to the animals’ liberty and mental health by trading them with caged shelter and exposure to the people. Moreover, in reality, zoos are the stressors that affect the animals’ mental health by exposing them to humans, and closely caging them with the other animals can stress them in the long run (Wickins-Dražilová, 2006). Thus, the provision of foods, water and protecting the animals by caging them in their unnatural habitat can never justify the stress that the animals have to face daily. In contemporary times, captivity centers have failed to live up to their desired mission of conserving the animals; on the contrary, zoos have been used for amusement purposes rather than conservation methods (Jamieson & Elliot, 2009). This shifting in the practices of zoos has created more stress among the animals by exposing them to humans, depriving them of their natural habitat and liberty.
The captivity centers’ establishment was meant to conserve animals through an in-situ conservation approach. However, circuses are not the captivity center meant to conserve the animals, but it is the means to use animals for entertainment purpose. Thus, there is no respect towards the animals that are used as the circuses’ recreational tools. Moreover, the zoos are also more focused on establishing themselves as an amusement park rather than the conservation center. As discussed above, the zoos overlook the motive behind their formation, which underscored conservation. However, the studies have revealed, as mentioned above, zoos are no more desirable place to conserve the animals through captivity. Thus, we should not cage animals in zoos and circuses because it deprives the animals of their freedom, it destroys animals’ natural habit and it increases the stress in the animals.
Agoramoorthy, G., & Harrison, B. (2002). Ethics and animal welfare evaluations in South East Asian zoos: A case study of Thailand. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 5(1), 1–13.
Griffin, A. S., Blumstein, D. T., & Evans, C. S. (2000). Training captive- bred or translocated animals to avoid predators. Conserv. Biol., 14, 1317–1326.
Jamieson, D., & Elliot, R. (2009). Progressive consequentialism. Philosophical Perspectives, 23, 241–255.
Keulartz, J. (2015). Captivity for conservation? Zoos at a crossroads. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 28(2), 335–351.
Kreger, M. D., & Hutchins, M. (2010). Ethics of keeping mammals in zoos and aquariums. Wild Mammals in Captivity: Principles and Techniques for Zoo Management, 3–10.
Learmonth, M. J. (2019). Dilemmas for natural living concepts of zoo animal welfare. Animals, 9(6), 318.
Minteer, B. A., & Collins, J. P. (2013). Ecological ethics in captivity: Balancing values and responsibilities in zoo and aquarium research under rapid global change. Ilar Journal, 54(1), 41–51.
Wickins-Dražilová, D. (2006). Zoo animal welfare. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 19(1), 27–36.