Are zoos cruel or beneficial? I’m sure this is a question that has passed through your mind many times as a parent.  Deciding if you should or shouldn’t visit a zoo with the kids. It is certainly a controversial subject, and I’m sure there isn’t a right or wrong answer. In an idealistic world, there would be no zoos. However, sadly today, there is a need to step in. Gone are the days when zoos are just an attraction for human entertainment. Species are now at risk of extinction. This is where zoos, in an unidealistic world can provide a safe haven. I’m not writing this post to convince you that Zoos are great. I believe every zoo could benefit from some improvement. However, hopefully I can provide you with some information, to make up your own mind to the question; Are zoos are cruel or beneficial?


Are Zoos Cruel or Beneficial


I have an MSc in Conservation Science, I’m not an expert but I have been taught a lot about the work Zoos undertake. I have seen first hand, and worked on zoo conservation projects internationally. Seeing the benefits they can provide. However, there are some situations where I feel categorically animals should not be in zoo type care. Large marine mammals for instance, I recommend Blackfish if you wish to find out why. Animals that are at risk of extinction that may not have a home to one day be reintroduced back too. Think Polar Bear and climate change. A large animal that is of least concern in terms of conservation, unless that animal has been rescued and cannot go back to the wild (although this opens a can of worms, would euthanasia ultimately be better?). I do not believe any animal should be caught from the wild to be held captive. Unless they are off extinction risk and in imminent danger. I think breeding should focus on endangered species only.  For reintroductions and/or expanding a gene pool.


Are zoos cruel or beneficial? – That’s still a tough one to have a definitive answer on!


As you can see, although I support zoos, the question are zoos cruel or beneficial, I still find controversial. At what point does captivity begin? Assisted feeding in the wild? A fence around a Nature reserve? At what point does the argument of extinction outweigh the arguments about captivity? These are questions I don’t have answers to, and are worthy of their own debatable post, but that is for another day!


Are Zoos Cruel Or Beneficial



There is however a lot of good work that zoos do carry out and a number of benefits that go alongside this work. For example, breeding and reintroduction programmes can work! Zoos are often criticised for failed reintroductions. It doesn’t help that for the big flagship species such as pandas and tigers, reintroduction is made harder by lack of suitable habitat or poaching. These species are forefront in everyone’s mind. When efforts are constantly thwarted it’s hard not to think that is the same for every species. It’s not. There have been several big successful breeding and reintroduction programmes where species have been reintroduced back to the wild. Species that might not be here today without the help of zoos.


The proper zoos, the ones that you should be visiting have to adhere to a strict code or professional ethics. For those in Britain, they would be a member of BIAZA or something similar (AZA, WAZA or EAZA). These zoos, through membership, demonstrate their dedication to conserving the natural world through research and conservation programmes. While educating and inspiring their visitors to do the same. They are not allowed to be anything less than great or their membership is revoked. This means giving the uttermost care and respect to the animals they look after.


Are Zoos Cruel or Beneficial?


Zoos provide a fantastic environment for education. Many Children, even adults are lucky if they spot a hedgehog or fox these days. While it would be wonderful to experience all animals in a natural environment, many of us will never get that chance. Zoos provide an opportunity for greater understanding and perspective for children. To learn and be inspired from. Forging a connection with wildlife and a want, as adults to preserve the species they fell in love with as children. I believe wholeheartedly, the emphasis of zoo education should not just be placed on the zoo. Surely we all have a duty to educate our children about protecting and conserving our planet? Zoos should be able to plant the seed that we then go onto grow!


The majority of animals in zoos live a very happy, carefree life. They have food on tap, have health checks, medicine, and clean enclosures. In fact many of these animals live a longer, healthier life than there wild counterpart. Freedom would be best, but where freedom isn’t an option, I believe zoos can provide a good alternative. I don’t want to generalise and this isn’t the case for all animals. For example large animals that roam over a wide territory. This is why I don’t agree some species should be in captivity. However, some species do thrive and they live very happy lives, this mustn’t be forgotten.


Are Zoos Cruel or Beneficial


I believe everyone should be able to make up their own minds on this topic. I’m not here to change your mind if you are decided. However, if you are on the fence, then hopefully I have given you some food for thought. I would love us to live in a time where zoos were not needed, but we don’t. Animals are dying out. Captivity most definitely is not an ideal solution, but we, as a species have almost made it a necessity. And for all those animals currently in zoos, what if tomorrow every single zoo was shut down? Where would all those animals go?


So I would say, as I do, take your kids to a good zoo. Where the animals are noisy and smelly and often interact with you. For a generation of kids that are often stuck in front of a screen, it’s an amazing opportunity to learn. It may well ignite a passion for conservation that might otherwise never burn. While it might not be the moral ideal, Zoos, for me (the good ones) have an important place while we try and fix the damage inflicted upon the planet. So are zoos cruel or beneficial? I currently err on the side of beneficial, but hope that one day they will not be needed.


I respect, that this is not everyone’s view and I would love to know what you think in the comments below. Are zoos cruel or beneficial in your opinion? Controversial subjects can always get heated, so please respect other people views if they do not match your own.







11 Comments on Are Zoos Cruel or Beneficial | Idealism in an Unidealistic World!

  1. Yes, it’s a tricky one alright.There aren’t many Zoos here in Ireland,there are two. Both have great reputations and both are very accessible. We found also alot of information about what work the Zoos do and how they help create awareness for indangered species.
    Kids love Zoos that’s the reality,however I do think Zoos will become more like sanctuaries where we will be able to view from such a distance rather than up as close and as personal as we can now and one day,I believe Zoos will be a thing of the past which I have to say isn’t a bad thing.

  2. I agree with what you have said here. They are important both for conservation, learning, and for some to have the chance to see what they might otherwise never experience. However, I also get sad they are not in their natural habitats

  3. Ah this is such a tricky question and I’m genuinely not sure on which side of the fence I sit. So many zoos do amazing work and provide a safe home for animals who may not survive in the wild which I applaud and support. However there are some zoos that keep the animals in confined spaces and see nothing but dollar signs. Zoos which educate us in the importance of looking after wildlife and this beautiful planet we live on will always have my support.

  4. I have to agree with every word you’ve written. While I don’t like the idea of animals in captivity, sometimes it is a necessity to preserve the species or because they cannot be reintroduced back into the wild. We take our son to zoos and aquariums and always try to visit ones involved in conservation. It always sparks conversations with our son and we answer him as honestly and openly as we can (with a 4-year old). I would love to instil a passion in him for animals.

  5. Never really considered it before. However, after our trip to Chessington yesterday, my view of Zoos is changing. My heart sank as I stared at the ‘King of the Jungle’. I noted what a small, unsuitable enclosure he was in and felt sorry for him during the indignity of being roared at by children. Out of respect for him, I didn’t even want to take a photo. I do hope they only keep them there for maybe 6 months and move them on to a proper zoo….

  6. I do agree with you on this, I think zoos do have a place in our lives and we should support them. We have a lovely zoo near us and the animals always look really happy and well looked after.

  7. Yes it’s a tricky one. However, we’ve been to Port Lympne with our Grandsons a few times and I love the conservation work they do. The Rangers are so passionate about their work and take the time to explain everything they’re doing and our grandsons always love asking loads of questions.

  8. I love the good that Zoo’s do to help animals who needed rescuing and caring for. There are always a few different thoughts on my mind when it comes to zoos but we do love to visit them.

  9. What a thought provoking post. It always makes me sad when I take to a zoo and the animals clearly havent been looked after. I remember we went to a zoo in Tenerife and we saw a really distressed gorilla who was extremely aggessive towards my son. it broke my heart and couldn’t stop thinking about if for days. While I think animals would be happier in the wild. As long as they’re look after in the zoos and are in appropriate conditions I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

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