Pick a place, any place, it doesn’t have to be your favorite place. Now that you have that one single place in mind, imagine spending the rest of your life there. Now knowing that you only have this one SINGLE place to spend the REST of your life, would you have picked a different place? As human beings we have the liberty of going to the supermarket when we want, visiting friends and family when we want, or even just going on a walk when we want.
This is the freedom we have stolen from wild animals when we place them in “enclosures” that more resemble prison cells. And while a lion would not be browsing through the aisles of the local Walmart, they would be hunting for food, a natural instinct we have denied them by making them do tricks for treats, receiving food at timed intervals, breeding them and other such perversions that go against everything wild.
My name is Olivia Vinsack and today I am going to try and convince you that zoos aren’t “saving” anything despite what they say.
They are just another way of making money off of animals that can’t say no. The year of 2016 will be a year to remember for many reasons, but arguably one of the most significant events does not involve the presidential elects, or politics at all. No, it is centered around the death of a 17 year old gorilla named Harambe. According to National Geographic’s article Harambe’s Death a Stark Reminder of Zoo Accidents, Harambe was a western lowland gorilla that was fatally shot when the safety of a child who had fallen into his enclosure was called into question.
There is a problem with zoos that resides not with the animals but with human error and their inability to guarantee safety for both the animals and the humans who wish to gawk at them.
The question that many people asked after this tragedy was ‘how did this happen,” when it should have been “why was this allowed to happen?” What it comes down to is this: the outcome for every day cannot be determined. There are a million and one ways that can change the events that unfold around us, so why would we try and control wild animals and put them into close proximity with a species that is foreign to them? The outcome to this is obvious and Harambe is just one example among many. According to a database compiled by Born Free USA, a nonprofit animal advocacy group, there have been 42 animal deaths since 1990 as a result of human error. Furthermore, a better question to ask is this, if we cannot 100% guarantee the safety of both animal and human, then what gives us the right to play at God and say that we control these animals, their reactions, people, and their decisions?
Stamps article On Shape and Spaciousness (2008) suggests that having enough space is a fundamental human need. If enough living space is a requirement for our health and wellness, how can we expect any less for animals? Animals require space for many reasons such as hunting, roaming, but also to react to external stressors. Studies show that the distance at which reactions take place was called the “flight distance.” The closer the threat, the higher the distress. Hedger’s design insight followed from the question of what happens if the size of the cage is less than twice the flight distance. The answer is that there is no location where the animal can be at least its flight distance from the walls. Consequently the animal is under a strong, constant stressor and will eventually sicken and die from this. Animals that show a significant amount more of stress in enclosures are animals that roam up to and more than 30 miles a day such as: elephants, polar bears, whales, and dolphins. Taking into consideration that there must also be a perceived threat and that threat is us, the humans.
So, not only are we imprisoning these animals in enclosures that nowhere near come close to their natural habitat, we cause them even more stress by forcing them into close contact with a species they would much rather avoid. And who can blame them, look what we have done to their homes and to them. Not surprisingly, other countries are already ahead of us in the game. The Daily Mail reports that tourists and predators have swapped places. The Lehe Ledu Wildlife Zoo in Chongqing city has made the switch and now allows visitors to comfortably view and feed wild animals from safely within steal cages. This allows visitors to truly view wild animals in their natural form, an experience that is entirely different from watching a bear lounge around in a small enclosure. Wild animals are meant to be wild and this just goes to show that there are alternatives to sticking animals in cages, making them dance, and still having the audacity to call them “wild.” Before you decide to go to the zoo again consider this: What if you were forced to wear a winter coat in the middle of summer? Because polar bears whose enclosures are too warm have to go through that every day. And finally, for a society that is supposed to be advocates for consent, consider this, did these animals ask to be put in cages? Did they give their consent? Jane Goodall once said “the voice of the natural world would say: could you please give us space and leave us alone to get along with our own lives and our own ways, because we actually know much better how to do it than when you start interfering.” If they could speak they would say no, no they did not ask for any of this and no means no regardless.