America The Free—Except For Captive Animals

This Memorial Day, while we’re celebrating our freedom—and paying tribute to the men and women who died while fighting for our freedom—let’s also take a moment to think about all the animals who are not free, and consider what we can do to help them. From factory farms to zoos, aquariums, and circuses to puppy mills and pet stores, countless animals are confined in deplorable conditions; exploited, abused, and even killed to satisfy many American’s way of life.

Many people barbecue beef, pork, and poultry on Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the cookout season. To me, it seems more fitting to hold a vegetarian cookout in commemoration of all the animals who suffer and die in slaughterhouses. Each year in the U.S., about 10 billion cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other animals are raised and killed for food. They are made of flesh, bone, and blood, just as you and I are. They yearn to be with their loved ones, feel the warmth of the sun, breathe fresh air, and feel grass beneath their feet.  Yet, before they are killed, they’re packed in filthy, dark cages, crates, warehouses, or sheds. They are debeaked, castrated, branded, or tortured in a variety of other ways. All to satisfy people’s taste for flesh.

And for our amusement, animals are kept in  circuses, aquariums, and zoos. Not only are they ripped from their natural habitats—or continuously bred in captivity to attract new visitors—they are kept in woefully substandard conditions, and sometimes they’re even beaten.

For example, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), which claims to be “the leader in establishing and maintaining high standards for zoos and aquariums,”  only requires zoos to provide elephants with outdoor enclosures that measure a meager 1,800 square feet, about the size of a 3-car garage. The AZA does not prohibit zoos from chaining elephants overnight—every  night—and does not even prohibit zoos from using sharp metal bullhooks to “discipline” elephants. In fact, the AZA actually provides guidelines for striking elephants.

Even though studies have shown that large, roving predators, such as big cats, show stereotypical symptoms of stress when kept in captivity, the AZA has made no move to start phasing these animals out of zoos. These animals often spend more than half their waking hours pacing because they are unable to satisfy their instinct to hunt and roam.

Pitiful roadside zoos and animal attractions, including bear exhibits like the Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park, and  Santa’s Land, and theme parks like Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Wild Safari, have a history of animal deaths and Animal Welfare Act violations. A PETA undercover investigator found dead, dying, and injured animals at G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Oklahoma.

In puppy mills, dogs are confined to small crates or wire cages; they’re deprived of exercise, adequate food and water, veterinary care and attention. Many are emaciated and sickly with crusty, oozing eyes, ear infections, swollen teats, gangrenous skin and/or abscessed feet. Female dogs are typically bred every time they go into heat and killed when they can no longer produce puppies.

It’s all heartbreaking and overwhelming, isn’t it? And I’ve really just scratched the surface—animals are also held captive in laboratories, fur farms, and other places, too.

So the fight for freedom must continue. The good news, I suppose, is that we don’t have to die to help win freedom for animals. It can be as simple as choosing a veggie burger over a hamburger; attending an animal-free circus instead of one that forces animals to perform; and adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group rather than buying one from a pet store or breeder. Of course, encouraging others to do the same will help even more animals.

For more ways to help animals in captivity, please click on the links below:

Help animals in circuses

Help animals in zoos

Help animals in factory farms

Help animals in puppy mills and pet stores

Mohandas Gandhi once said that, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Let’s help make America a great nation by fighting for animals’ freedom—on Memorial Day and every other day of the year.




Josie Eldred
Josie Eldred7 years ago

Honestly, the poll question is too broad for me. Should animals be kept in circuses and used for our entertainment? Absolutely not. It's a cruel and primitive form of entertainment and it needs to be stopped.

However, when it comes to animals being kept in zoos, I'm very much on the fence. No, in the short term it's not necessarily the best thing for them, but in the long term it is probably contributing to the continuation of a lot of species. Siberian tigers, orangutans, silverback gorillas, etc, etc. These animals are being slaughtered in the wild and if they're not kept safe and bred in captivity we may start to lose species for good.

Vanessa S.
Vanessa S7 years ago

We all must realize that education and action is the only real answer to these problems.

cosette p.


Evie M.
EVELYN M7 years ago

The genius 3% that voted yes should be put in captivity !!!!

Rosa Canas
Rosa Canas7 years ago


Lila D.
Lila D.7 years ago

I think that all animals deserve to be free but on the other hand some animals can do better in captivity

SANDRA R7 years ago

All animals deserve our love and our respect!!!! All acts of barbarian cruelty against them shoud be stopped!!!!

mariya s.
Mari S7 years ago

I want the day to come soon when all animals are appreciated, respected and adored by society at large -- i want it to be considered a given that animals are treated properly -- and to abolish cruel, sadistic and unconscionable actions permanently.

Ronald B.
Ronald B.7 years ago

all backyard breeders know that they who TRUELY love animals have saved breeds from extinction. I have friends that have bred what zoos can not. There are animals that can not survive with out man. PETA did this they rescued 1500 white rabbits from a farm and did the right the humane animal rights thing. they set them free in the wild.. rabbits bred to be large and white. and that had lived on pellets. They became ill from the fresh grass too many for the area they were wiped out by preditors , causeing havoc with the natural order . yes you animal right folk rock. be honest you dont like animals you dont like it that i have pets. your agenda is to force us to be vagan and no animals .Disney went to your heads .

Caroline L.
Caroline L7 years ago

There is no easy, no bother solution. It is up to all of us to get this right. And I agree with everyone else, I am not sure at all that Elephants belong in any zoo. Our zoo doesn't have them. I think this is the proper choice. To those zoos that do they must give up enough habitat. If they can't, they must give them over to sanctuary. And I also like the idea of the other reader who said, "put the people in cages". This idea is actually workable. A caged walkthrough in a habitat zoo is a great concept. People are protected while the animals have space, safety and freedom. I just don't want to see a world where we do not interact with animals at all. There has to be a solution that falls short of that extreme.