Zoos - a 19th Century anachronism
STATEMENT OF INTENT.
Zoos began when London Zoological Gardens opened for scientific study in 1828, and then to the public in 1857. This was a time of industry and curiosity with little awareness of the consequences of our human activity. However, our awareness of the impact is radically different to that of the 19th century. Travel and ready access to information have changed our perception of the place of animals in the world we share, and yet we still keep them in cages.
Putting an animal in a cage deprives it of autonomy and freedom and I believe its dignity. Given the way the world is, keeping animals in captivity could be considered the best thing for them. Is this really the case? First we destroy animal habitats and then we lock them up and pretend it’s all for their own good?
With a few exceptions, the problem with zoos is that the conditions of captivity are not aligned with the requirements of the individual animal. Many spend their incarceration driven to pace the small boundaries of their cages, living in surroundings totally at odds with their natural habitat, in a climate alien to their species. Captives exhibit psychotic behaviours, trained like circus attractions to play ball; huddling together for comfort and warmth or living in what amounts to solitary confinement all within the gaze of their human subjugators.
With some notable excpetions, despite claims that they are all about conservation I believe zoos are still essentially a 19th century anachronism.