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If the Circus is Off-Limits, Do You Visit The Zoo?

If the Circus is Off-Limits, Do You Visit The Zoo?

As a young girl, I loved to visit the zoo. As a teen, I boycotted because seeing caged animals made me too sad. Now as a parent, I find myself in a quandary. My girls love non-human creatures as much as I do, but they don’t notice when a cage seems too small. The amazing animals simply fill them with wonder.

Before I got a membership at the San Francisco zoo, I read about the Zoo’s rehab and breeding programs and felt like they were doing work to help many of the animals. For example, the grizzly bears currently living in Grizzly Gulch was rescued hours before their scheduled euthanasia after they ransacked a ranch. I even wondered if it was possible that some of the animals might be happier in the zoo, freed from struggling for food on a daily basis. It might be nice to be a zoo polar bear right now, rather than a starving creature swimming hundreds of miles in open water for a bite to eat. Yet, it would be blind to ignore the fact that the animals are caged, and many of the animals probably don’t like their cages.

And PETA’s recent report alleging that Ringling Brothers abuses their animals rattled my confidence (again) that people who profit from animals have incentive to treat them kindly. Of course I was appalled at the elephant abuse depicted in the novel Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, but that was ages ago. I felt sure something like that wouldn’t happen in a country as regulated as the U.S. is today.

Despite the alleged abuses, however, I have concluded that for now, I’ll bring my kids to the zoo. At least our zoo. Animal videos are wonderful, but it’s not the same as seeing an animal live, meeting its gaze with your own. And when the kids ask about the animals in the cages, I’ll be honest. I will invite them to think about how the animals might be happier free, but I’ll also challenge them to think about how the zoo makes their lives easier.

What do you think? Do you bring children to the zoo to inspire their love of nature, or does it defeat the purpose when the animals are in cages?

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218 comments

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3:30PM PST on Dec 9, 2012

You need to research the establishment and make a judgement v=from there. Many Zoos, including the one for which I am a board member, Elmwood Park Zoo, house injured rehabilitated animals that could not be released and needed a forever home. You can not just stereo type every one in a particular category. The animals we have from rehabs would have had to be euthanized if they did not find a permanent home for them at our zoo becasue their simply is not enough room at the rehabs to house all the animals that come in with injuries or situations that would prevent them from being released. Many are surrendered from idiots wh think wild animals are pets and then don't want to care for them anymore. They obviously would never survive in the wild. So don't judge until you know the facts. We are also an AZA accredited zoo which means we must meet the strict requirments of animal care and husbandry.

3:24PM PST on Dec 9, 2012

Interesting, thank you.

3:22PM PST on Dec 9, 2012

Interesting, thank you.

3:52PM PST on Nov 20, 2009

I think zoos are great places where the public can see animals which they otherwise would never have the opportunity to see. It helps improve the public support of animal and environmental protections. Yes there should be some zoos forced to close over animal abuse, or other zoos should be given the opportunity to take animals from the bad zoos. But overall, zoos are a benefit to animals.

10:21AM PDT on Aug 23, 2009

I would never visit a zoo or circus. There are plenty of rehab type places that can be visited.

4:50PM PDT on Aug 21, 2009

I personally think that some zoos do are good, the ones who are big and looked after. The kind of zoos you can find, maybe, in USA, or in Europe. I have some issues with the zoos in Chile, because I've seen them so many times, and they only go worse. They're little, dirty, and I don't think animals are happier that way. I have to add that Mendoza's zoo was far worse, littler and lonelier, but that doesn't make me feel better about the ones in my own country. I think that zoos give an extraordinary way to make people conscious about the animals we share the world with.They also help endargered animals, and the culture of the people, but I mostly think that they should be legislated worldwide in a way they can give animals, at least, a little part of what they deserve :) If I ever have children, I will visit zoos with them, but I hope I can get to show them animals in the wild (that's far more exciting!).

2:47AM PDT on Aug 20, 2009

I have just read an extremely ignorant comment here. It stated "Zoo animals don't breed well in captivity. There are far more failures than successes." This is true but many of these species, if not all, are breeding far better in Zoos and Wildlife Parks, etc, than they do in thw wild. End of. THAT is why Zoos are of vital importance to the survival of animal (and plant, lets not forget) species. People who say that Zoos are cruel and should be closed down are amongst the most ignorant people I have ever come across. Also many people says things like 'They have Tigers but aren't breeding them' this is because you cannot guarantee that they are perfectly suited. If somebody placed you in an exhibit with someone you hated, you aren't going to mate with them are you?! You have to have worked in a Zoo, or similar, or at least have to know what you're talking about to claim that Zoos are cruel. I'm not saying that individuals aren't cruel, I'm sure there are some individuals who abuse animals in their care (i.e. Zoo Keepers, etc.) But Zoos in general are NOT cruel to animals. Unless the enclosures are deliberately too small, obviously dangerously over fed, etc, it is an impossibility. But then this would never happen because of higher governing bodies, like BIAZA, EAZA, WAZA etc. etc, would be evaluating how they're doing. The public would pick up on this too.

8:39PM PDT on Aug 11, 2009

In a perfect world, there would be no need for zoos. But as we all know, we do not live in anything close to a perfect world.

5:29AM PDT on Aug 11, 2009

If they receive love and attention given good health treatment. Are in a similar habitat as the wild and they could use freely.

1:36AM PDT on Aug 6, 2009

I think I would bring my children to the zoo but only a normal one (I mean a zoo where the animals live in a the very least decent conditions). I'd teach them to think about how these animals live in the cage and then they would decide whether they want to go or they don't. I think that would be honest.

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