5 Reasons You Should Boycott the Zoo

Our fascination with wild animals is nothing new. Since as far back as 1250 B.C., zoos have entertained millions with exotic animals behind bars, but we’re not living in the dark ages anymore.

Despite claims that zoos play an important role in conservation and education, they are unnatural and inherently cruel. To put it simply, they do more harm that good.

A life in a cage is no life at all. Here are just five reasons why you should boycott the zoo:

1. Zoos Cannot Provide Sufficient Space

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

No matter how big some zoos try to make their enclosures, no matter how many pretty pictures they paint on the walls, and no matter how many branches they place around, these spaces in no way compare to the natural habitat that the animals were meant to be in. They are far smaller and far less stimulating.

This is particularly the case for species that roam large distances in their native environment. Studies show that elephants (who typically travel 30 miles per day) are confined to spaces, on average, 1,000 times smaller than their wild habitats and that polar bears have spaces approximately 1,000,000 times smaller than their arctic territories.

2. Animals Suffer From Abnormal Repetitive Behavior

Photo Credit: martinteschner

Abnormal repetitive behavior, also known as ARB, is the scientific term for repetitive behaviors demonstrated by captive animals. This can cover all sorts of strange looking behaviors that are indicative of stress including pacing, head bobbing, swaying from side to side, rocking, sitting motionless and biting themselves. These behaviors, which are typical of animals kept in captivity such as zoo animals, are attributed to depression, boredom and psychoses.

Since most of us only have knowledge of these wild animals from seeing them at the zoo, it isn’t always easy to recognize these stress behaviors. Many zoo keepers aren’t even aware of these signs themselves, and if they are they certainly aren’t eager to explain them to us. With members of the public beginning to catch on, some zoos routinely give anti-depressants or tranquilizers in an attempt to control the problems.

3. Surplus Animals Are Killed

Photo Credit: Martin Pettitt

Surplus animals are unwanted animals that are a result of systematic overproduction by zoos. These surplus animals are either killed (and in some cases are fed to their fellow zoo inhabitants) or are sold to other zoos or dealers. Selling surplus animals is a profitable way for zoos to dispose of them, with many ending up at hunting ranches, pet shops, taxidermists, circuses, exotic meat industries, and even research facilities.

A study undertaken bu Captive Animals’ Protection Society found that anywhere from 7,500 to 200,000 animals are surplus at any one time in European zoos. Culling animals in UK zoos is a regular occurrence. In 2005, two wolf cubs and an adult female where shot dead at Dartmoor Wildlife Park  ”due to overcrowding and fighting in the pack,” a year later in 2006, an entire pack of wolves were culled at Highland Wildlife Park after the social structure of the pack had broken down.


4. Animals Are Still Taken From The Wild

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

Despite what zoos will have us believe, animals are still taken by force from the wild. Not so long ago in 2003, the UK government allowed 146 penguins to be captured from the South Atlantic where they had to endure a seven day long boat journey, those who survived this grueling ordeal were then given to a wildlife dealer in South Africa before being sold to zoos in Asia.

In 2010, Zimbabwe made plans to capture two of every mammal species living in the Hwange National Park including lions, cheetahs, rhinos, zebras, giraffes and elephants, in order to send them to North Korean zoos. Thankfully the plan was stopped, but only after a lot of international pressure from varying animal rights organizations. As if that’s not bad enough, figures also show that an unbelievable 79% of all animals in aquariums are wild caught.


5. Zoos Don’t Serve Conservation or Education

Photo Credit: tgraham via Compfight cc

Zoos claim to care about conservation, often fooling the public into believing that they breed animals with the intention of eventual release back into the wild, but in reality these breeding programs are primarily in place to maintain captive population. Zoos spend millions on keeping captive animals confined as opposed to fighting to protect natural habits that are being destroyed at an alarming rate and threatening many endangered species.

Zoos are also considered to be essential education tools to help raise awareness of wild animals to children and adults alike, however, people gain little, if any, true understanding of wild animals and their natural behaviors and instincts through visiting these institutions. You can learn more from watching wildlife documentaries that observe animals in their natural habitats, or if funds allow, by taking an expedition to see them enjoying their lives right where they belong, in nature!

As if the above five reasons aren’t enough, it is also commonplace for zoo animals to die prematurely, suffer illness from inadequate care and neglect, and for zoos to train animals to perform tricks even though similar shows in circuses are banned.

Show zoos that you don’t believe in their cruel practices by boycotting them, and instead choose to support animal friendly entertainment and educational activities.

Photo Credit: Ian Sane


Lilly A
Lilly A3 days ago

Yes, its true some animals are victims of unjust and cruelity, but taking out zoos and animal entertainment will not be the best idea. Althogh some animals are caught wild, the majority are rehabilitated or born in a encloser. These animals can not survive in the wild. That being said, taking away animals who generate money for their zoos will cut the zoo's budgets. when zoos dont have money, conditions for the animals worsen and worse: less animals are being rescued. If no one has money for the animals, they stop getting animals. I believe that you should change your arguement to something like "stopping animal cruelityin zoos". because believe it or not, animal entertainment for humans is kinda what saves them. Although I do agree some animals are under terrible conditions, and we should focus on fixing those conditions. think long term.

Nena C.
Nena C10 months ago

close all zoo's better places available to take kiddoes to see the critters!

Sam M.
Sam M.10 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Lori D.
Lori D1 years ago

I don't totally agree. A well kept zoo is a place where endangered species can continue to exist and educate the public as well. Not ALL zoos are bad. Humans have taken over many species habitat and caused loss of land, food sources, and introduced other dilemmas where they can't survive in the wild. Humans need to learn to keep free space, use less chemicals that harm them, stop deforesting. For that reason I can't agree totally.

Margarete Salah
Margarete Salah1 years ago

Yes, absolutely, these jails are not fit to keep anything. Animals don't live there, they exist. My pet hate is the daily halve hour or so, when animals have to do circus tricks,so they don't get bored!
Maybe it started as a well meaning idea, but it turned out to be a cruel thing. And it does not save a single animal in Africa.
Wild life parks are maybe an alternative.

Valentina R.
Valentina R1 years ago

Never went to a zoo, never will. They are nothing more than cash grabbers.
Another story for parks and sanctuaries of course, they ACTUALLY do an excellent conservation, reproduction and preservation work.

John S.
John S2 years ago

(continuing my comment below):

...but to think it hasn't been extremely positive for many people and their interest level in animals is ridiculous.

And while continuing to take animals from the wild or sell off or cull so-called surplus ones undoubtedly happens and needs to be reined in if not discontinued altogether, some zoos are doing just the opposite. There are numerous examples of zoos engaged in captive breeding programs to help save endangered species by returning them to the wild, if possible, and some zoos have outstanding conservation programs that even extend to other nations and regions.

Many zoos have laudably come a long way while others are unfortunately still stuck in the past. Let's continue to expose, crack down on and, if necessary, force the closure of zoos that aren't getting it done while also pushing for good, credible zoos to continually get better, but the throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater approach of boycotting all zoos doesn't seem to achieve its purpose to me...at least not until will achieve that utopian world.

John S.
John S2 years ago

This article paints zoos with too broad of a brush. I'm a huge animal lover and vocal animal advocate, and I'm well aware of the criticism of zoos and some of their unequivocal failings, but saying we should boycott all zoos and that some don't play an important role in conservation and education is nonsense.

There are irresponsible and substandard zoos that should absolutely be shut down entirely, and we should continue to be vigilant and demanding about the enrichment level and size of zoo habitats--including some large animals like elephants and orcas, for example, that probably no zoo would ever be able to provide a large enough enclosure to justify keeping--but there are some outstanding, credible zoos out there that are doing things as right as possible and making a difference.

No simulated, limited habitat (especially not a cage) will ever be as good as a natural one--I get that--and in a perfect world we wouldn't need zoos because all humans would appreciate animals for what they are and their right to live unencumbered just as much as us, but we don't live in a perfect world and sadly never will.

Watching nature programs on TV, albeit worthwhile, is not the same as experiencing animals up close and personal, and there are millions of people who wouldn't have had that chance were it not for zoos. We can't know for sure the exact impact that has on everyone, but to think it hasn't been extremely positive for many people and their interest level in animals is r