5 Reasons You Should Boycott the Zoo

Editors note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on January 15, 2014. Enjoy!

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

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: Rose Fraser/Unsplash

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

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 were 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: Jared Rice/Unsplash

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 percent of all animals in aquariums are wild caught.

5. Zoos Don’t Serve Conservation or Education


Photo Credit: Brad Smith/Unsplash

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: Daiga Ellaby/Unsplash


Richard B
Richard B10 days ago

thanks for posting

Daniel N
Daniel N17 days ago

Thank you

tammy C
tammy C17 days ago

death traps

Hugh E
Hugh E17 days ago

Responsible zoos facilitate and promote the conservation of animals. Breeding programs at zoos have saved numerous species from extinction. Many zoos have programs dedicated to the study of treating wildlife diseases that threaten conservation. Responsible zoos have habitats that are designed for the animals to be comfortable, happy, and enriched. Animals in zoos and aquariums today can live longer, healthier, and richer lives than their forbears ever did in the wild. Responsible zoos also provide education and perform valuable research. Not all zoos are good... but some of them are. Boycott the bad ones by all means, but don't boycott the ones that are doing good in the world.

Mark H
Mark H19 days ago

Exotica? Curiosities? Prisoners.

Lesa D
Lesa D19 days ago

#377362 petition signed...

Lesa D
Lesa D19 days ago

thank you Abigail...

ANA MARIJA R19 days ago

If humans don't understand the need to protect the habitats of this amazing creatures and the pain & suffering define as a entertainment we need constantly repeat this kind of reminders. Shared. Thank you.

Timothy J
Timothy J19 days ago

I share the same thing with you: animal. I love all animals except bee, wasp, and hornet.
Recently, I was searching and reading the articles, since that's what I love to do here, but your article about boycotting the zoo is my concern. I also agree with this view: 'zoo is a prison for animals.' However, your solution to this zoo problem is making me uncomfortable.
You can't just shut them all down. Like not all humans are bad, some zoos are maintained well and use innovative ways to make sure animals live in a healthy, happy condition. Zoos that must be boycotted must be a zoo that is not maintained well and animals are neglected.
Also, we need to consider what we will do with the animals if we shut down the zoo. In my country, local media reported that the abandoned zoo still has animals in the exhibit, and they were terribly neglected. We must think about what should be done to animals if their zoo is shut down.
In addition, living in the wild is a dream for all animals, but it contains some problems.
First, returning the animal to the wild costs lot of money and time, and there is a risk that animal can be killed either from failing to adapt to the wild or by the hunters and poachers. Sure, money and time won't be a problem if the animal successfully returns to the wild, but still, there is a risk of failing.
Also, if an animal is an endangered or rare animal, it could be targeted by hunters and poachers, since they ca

Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride20 days ago

I read a quote from someone saying "the only ones who are at home in a zoo are the zoo keepers". I think that says it all.