The RSPCA* has called for a ban on importing elephants to the UK.
The group’s stance has created tension among government bodies that want to begin importing elephants. WHY?
Groups associated with the British Government, animal welfare and zoo groups funded a report, which, among other things, recommended the importing of elephants to facilitate long term breeding.
The RSPCA voiced concerns about the welfare of elephants in zoos, citing studies that elephants in zoos live significantly shorter lives than those in the wild.
Dr. Ros Clubb of the RSPCA said “Elephants are, without question, suffering in zoos. Adding yet more elephants to an ailing population simply masks the problems and if drastic improvements to these problems cannot be found, the RSPCA believes zoos should phase out elephant-keeping.”
The RSPCA has refused to join the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Biaza)on a panel because it is disappointed that there won’t be discussion of a ban on importing elephants.
Zoos are entertainment, not sanctuary
Elephants do not belong in zoos, nor do any other animals. Within the bureaucracy of all zoos there are always scientists or officials to sing the praises of a zoo’s spacious, comfortable enclosures or their veterinary staff or conservation work. But a zoo is not a sanctuary, zoos exist to display animals for humans. They are first and foremost an entertainment business.
Elephants and all other animals belong in their natural environment, not in a cage to be gawked at by snow cone-clutching tourists.
However, the RSPCA is only half-right in this debate. Their calls for a ban on importing elephants or elephant-keeping should not include provisos or caveats. The call for a ban on elephants in zoos should be unequivocal and definitive. Saying that a ban on elephants in zoos should result “if solutions to welfare problems are not found” is not just weak but it’s moral cowardice.
It is not to say that elephants are somehow special or less ethical to confine, because it is not ethical to confine any animal. But elephants by virtue of their size, majesty, intelligence, and habits can be a wake up call. Hopefully seeing how badly suited elephants are for life in a zoo can lead to a realization that animals do not exist for our entertainment any more than they exist for our consumption.
Freedom for animals that are confined shouldn’t be contingent on the conditions of their prisons. We don’t want bigger cages, we want empty cages. We do not want better zoos, we want no zoos.
*Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals