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Poll: Do you think zoos are cruel?

Some penguins have to take antidepressants. Is that enough to stop you from going to a zoo?

Polar bear offspring at Berlin Zoo Source: DPA/PA Images

REGARDLESS OF WHERE you grew up in Ireland, or what kind of background you came from, there’s probably a good chance you’ve paid a visit to one of the zoos dotted around the country. 

Maybe it’s an experience you remember fondly, maybe it’s an experience you hardly even remember at all because you were so young at the time, or maybe you’ve recently been to a zoo in your adult life, simply because you enjoy the experience. Maybe you feel guilty about this, or maybe you don’t. 

Either way, you’ve probably heard people criticise zoos.

British comedian and TV presenter Romesh Ranganathan wrote an article for The Guardian a few years ago, asking, “In an age when David Attenborough can virtually take us inside an elephant’s bottom, is there any or conversational value to keeping animals in captivity?” In this article, he pointed out that a zoo in Cumbria had its licence revoked after 500 animals died over a two-year period. In recent years, we’ve all seen the headlines about the penguins in the UK who were prescribed anti-depressants. There’s too many instances of mistreatment of animals in zoos across the world to even note here.

For a quick overview, that doesn’t even look at mistreatment of individual animals, you can see on BBC’s website that from an animal welfare point of view, it’s unfair to keep animals in zoos for a number of reasons, including:

  • Animals are deprived of their natural habitat.
  • They usually don’t have enough room.
  • The animals can become bored, depressed and institutionalised.
  • They might live longer lives in the zoo than in the wild, but they often experience a lower quality of life.
  • A zoo may be unable to keep a large enough number of individual animals to provide a sufficiently varied gene pool for the species to breed without problems.
  • Where animals are rare and hard to breed in captivity, removing specimens from the wild to zoos may actually result in the overall global population of the animal falling.
  • Returning animals to the wild is difficult.

It’s stuff you’ve probably heard before. And yet, people still go on dates to the zoo all the time, or bring their kids to the zoo for a bit of fun, or an educational experience (which, according to research, isn’t that educational at all). Many feel that not all zoos are cruel, or badly run. For some people, seeing a cute animal in the flesh is enough to outweigh all of the issues raised by people concerned about animal welfare.

 How do you feel about zoos?

Poll Results:

I really don't agree with zoos at all. Seems so cruel. (689)
I don't have any particularly strong feelings about them, but I'd probably visit one on holidays. (603)
I used to love them, but I decided it's not very ethical, so I won't be back. (489)
I love them! I don't care what anyone says. It's a bit of fun. (372)
I never liked them anyway, full of tourists and a waste of money. (70)

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Kelly Earley

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