So, after deciding to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo here in Chicago, Sameer and I had a number of conversations about the ethicalness of zoos.
What was really sad for us was the way some of the animals were engaging in repetitive behavior. For example, I really wanted to see the bears move around and interact with their environment but they either just sat still or walked from a spot indoors to a spot outdoors. The Andean Bear kept swinging his head from side to side and pacing around one of the rock pools. It was literally six steps one way and then six steps back. The same for the leopard. He was in his indoor enclosure, glaring at us, walking the exact same line back and forth all the time.
This PETA article confirms that this type of repetitive behavior is common in wild cats and bears suffering from stress induced by relocation and a false environment. A recent Guardian article also detailed a case in which the Berlin Zoo was accused of selling surplus animals to unwholesome people or slaughtering them for use as feed. On the other hand, zoos do take a big interest in conservation schemes.
Are zoos not just a relic of the menageries kept by heads of state hundreds of years ago, to show their power and the extent of their kingdoms? Can we really justify treating animals in this way in this enlightened age?