Morality of Zoos

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Morality of Zoos

#1  Postby aufbahrung » Feb 19, 2020 10:01 pm

Think RationalSkeptism is mature enough to discuss this topical theme without much intro needed. What's your take then?
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#2  Postby laklak » Feb 19, 2020 10:33 pm

God gave us dominion over all living things, because we're so fucking special.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#3  Postby Svartalf » Feb 19, 2020 10:40 pm

special needs you mean?
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#4  Postby TopCat » Feb 19, 2020 11:11 pm

Given habitat destruction, zoos will become increasingly important for wildlife conservation. They will need income from visitors to fund such conservation work. Given visitors, there is the opportunity for education.

So obviously, whether the existence of a particular zoo is ethical, depends on what it does, what its motivation is, what compromises it's forced to make, etc.

It can be perfectly ethical. Or, it could be horrible. This question can only be tackled on a case by case basis. Generalising is pointless, until the real world is more like the ideal world, with no necessity to cage animals.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#5  Postby tuco » Feb 20, 2020 12:16 am

Question is then, how do we get from where we are now to where we want to be, the ideal world. I would think some kind of let's say pressure is needed for changes to take place. What kind of pressure? Imagine, we accept that wildlife conservation is essential thus publicly funded. We could shrink the caging for-profit aspect and expand the conservation one. To me, it seems there is not enough pressure. Wild life is normal life for them.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#6  Postby laklak » Feb 20, 2020 12:23 am

First we'll need to get rid of maybe 5,000,000,000 ground apes. Then Ma Nature will take care of herself.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#7  Postby Rachel Bronwyn » Feb 20, 2020 2:10 am

They're gross.

Obviously, lots of species do fine in captivity and are perfectly able to express their full range of natural behaviors in that setting. The ones people go to zoos to see though usually can't. People don't visit zoos to see the little sedentary dumb species. They go to see the big, intelligent, socially complex mammals.

Anything as intelligent as a gorilla should be able to make choices for its self and express natural behaviors. They can do some of that from the confines of a nice zoo. I've seen some gorgeous, big, complex almost "natural" zoo enclosures. Ultimately though, people decide for them if and when and to where they disperse, etc. That's really fucked up.

The only value of keeping animals alive in captivity that will never contribute to wild populations and ecosystems is entertainment and profit. The education zoos can provide is no better than what wildlife documentaries can. Media is just as capable of fostering love and concern for species and inspiring people to take action to protect them. People want the thrill of seeing animals in person, up close though. Zoos provide that. People will pay for it.

"Zoos are just keeping animals alive until threats to them in the wild are resolved at which point they'll be released" just isn't true nor does it make sense. Lots of species, when raised in human care, are never releasable. Those are the species people visit zoos to see.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#8  Postby Hermit » Feb 20, 2020 2:43 am

Zoos are changing. Few animals remain confined in small concrete and iron barred cages. Taronga Zoo's monkeys, for example, have few hundred square metres of landscaped enclosure to roam and play in, as have the lions, tigers and other wild cats. The Zoo has changed its name to "Taronga Zoological Park", but that is largely a public relations exercise. The animals' environments are still cramped compared to those of their counterparts in the wild.

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My favourite moment that day was watching a baby gorilla rushing past the silverback as fast as it could move and slapping his bum on the way through. Unfortunately I did not have the camera going at the time.

One of the features of Adelaide's zoo is a huge aviary covering several hundred square metres with walkways through it. It's up to the visitors to spot the birds.

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Sometimes the birds find the visitors.

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The Monarto Zoo, 70 kilometres outside Adelaide, is something altogether different. In that one the visitors are caged while the animals run free in several huge areas totalling 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres). The visitors are shuttled around in buses with huge windows, looking at the roaming animals. The buses stop where they can be best seen. Visitors can also hop out at various viewing spots. The next bus will pick them up again.

Monarto started off as a project as a sanctuary and breeding program for endangered species, both native and exotic. In that regard it is doing quite well, especially so with bilbies, rock wallabies and giraffes. Eventually someone figured out that giving access to the public could help defray the project's running costs, so it turned into a free-range zoo.

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Starting last year Monarto is being converted into a safari park. When it's finished in 2021 it will be the biggest one outside Africa. Of course the only shootings allowed are with cameras. The breeding programs will continue.

In short, zoos are not as morally reprehensible as they used to be, and work done in some of them is actually commendable.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#9  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 20, 2020 3:29 am

I live in Thailand... zoos here are straight up evil.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#10  Postby TopCat » Feb 20, 2020 10:13 am

Spearthrower wrote:I live in Thailand... zoos here are straight up evil.

I had to see through a showing of pictures from some (now mostly no longer) friends who went to Thailand on their honeymoon. They had a ride on an elephant which even to my eyes was obviously in appalling condition.

Yet the friends were just excited to ride the elephant, and were utterly oblivious to the blatant mistreatment.

So western ignorance (and also possibly a general lack-of-giving-a-shit) feeds that sort of evil I'm sure.

I wouldn't even want to ride an elephant. It would feel disrespectful.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#11  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 20, 2020 5:55 pm

While not giving ignorant tourists a free pass, I don't think it's very realistic (although it IS very Thai) to blame foreigners for everything. It's Thai people capturing and caging the animals, Thai people putting animals in dire conditions, Thai people paying to view the animals, and Thai people profiting from it.

One of the worst things I've seen at a zoo was a sunbear engaging in repetitive behaviors that was downright disturbing, swinging back and forth on its hind legs in a stupid little enclosure with no coverage at all, and seeing crowds of people laughing at it. It's the kind of scene that can make you fall in hatred of a species.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#12  Postby Fallible » Feb 20, 2020 6:56 pm

:nono: Of course I know this goes on, but I still can’t bear to hear it. Bears are my favourite animals, US had a sunbear sponsored in my name for Xmas. A drop in the ocean.
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Re: Morality of Zoos

#13  Postby Spearthrower » Feb 21, 2020 2:37 am

https://www.wfft.org/

This ^ is not a zoo in any way, shape or form. It's a full-on sanctuary, rehabilitation model. They look for animals which have been taken as pets or used as labour or to perform tricks for money and rescues them, giving them a natural home with wide open spaces and all the bells and whistles of a natural environment. People can still visit and see the animals, assuming the animals are standing somewhere visible in their ranges, and there's even times for feeding and washing elephants which have been close to humans all their lives and so actually like the attention. This is what a "zoo" should be - a place for the animals to thrive, not for humans to have a titillating viewing experience they could as easily get by watching some David Attenborough documentary and watch wild animals behaving normally in their natural environment.

Incidentally, everyone donate! :grin: It's a place I go to help primates and they do unbelievable work there!
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