You decide: are zoos harmful or beneficial?

Kiran Singh and Anthony Alegrete

In may, Harambe the gorilla was shot at the Cincinnati Zoo, sparking controversy over zoos; proponents cite zoo’s efforts to repopulate endangered species; opponents argue zoos serve to entertain the masses. So we at Beyond Liberty are letting you decide: Are Zoos Ethical?


We are losing animals at the most rapid rate since the dinosaurs, and zoos may be are only hope to saving these species that our integral to our ecosystems and our ways of life.
There are many species that our labeled as being completely extinct in the wild, however, the populations of these animals are now being rehabilitated by zoos through a program called a species survival plan. This program connects zoos internationally so that populations can be strengthened and species can be reintroduced to the wild. The organization in charge scours different zoos to find two animals that have a proper genetic match so that they will reproduce the most healthy and high-functioning offspring as possible.
Additionally, zoos administer conservation projects in countries like Malaysia where populations of endangered species, like the Asian Elephant and the Malayan Tiger, are threatened by poachers and plantation owners. Zoos then partner with individuals in the country and create a talented team of researchers and activists to ensure the animals don’t go extinct, so they won’t have to rebuild their populations.


Zoos are an integral part of our childhoods. We visit them, pressing our hands upon glass (labelled “Do not touch”), and beg our parents for peanuts to give to the elephants. We wander around the aquarium, captivated by the rainbow, holographic prisms created by the “exotic” fishes’ scales. Like Dudley Dursley, we screech for our parents to make the animals move, do something, entertain us. Consider the converse.
Imagine us in glass exhibits, provoked to prance for the entertainment of animals. Would we, too, lift our weighted heads, stretch a purposeless claw, and attempt to emit a noise that no longer carries the power of its true potential? We cage animals and showcase their now worthless genetic diversity and evolutionary adaptions. We think ourselves the saviors of primitive species, but are we really?
We destroy habitats, ignore climate change, and disregard signs like flooded homes, damaged crops, and dying species. Our solution to these issues is to capture and cage wild animals, punishing them for our environmental crimes in a weak attempt to right our wrongs.
Scientifically, we’re superior because of our developed brains, better posture, and twiddle-able thumbs. But are we superior in our mindsets? In our ethicality? That’s a question only the lethargic animals we place into our “beneficial” zoos can answer.