When the issue of 'Zoos' arise, it is best to take the issue on a case by case basis, rather than seeing all Zoos as the same. All Zoos are not the same. There are different types of Zoos.
And, the issue of whether Zoos are morally right, or morally wrong, depends upon what type of Zoo it is. If we are using animals in Zoos solely for entertainment purposes, then, there is a strong argument against these types of Zoos.
There is no excuse for using animals for entertainment purposes. Animals, like us, experience emotions, and they are concious of their surroundings. Therefore, using them as tools for entertainment is cruel. Which also makes Zoos who use animals for entertainment cruel.
Zoos which use entertainment as a feature in them are closely associated with Travelling Zoos. Travelling Zoos are exactly as they sound. Travelling Zoos are zoos with animals which move about. Usually, this can be in a close proximity, but, not always. Travelling Zoos can be exhausting to animals, just like you an I get exhausted by travelling.
Travel Zoos often get a bad reputation. Not only are they not regulated as strictly as conventional zoos, they also are noted as having horrific conditions.
Therefore, just like entertainment zoos are cruel for animals, so are travelling zoos.
But, is there any ways in which zoos can be morally permissible? Yes. There can be zoos which are morally permissible. Not only morally permissible, but also essential.
Zoos can be a vital importance for the conservation of wild species. They can also produce vital research for wild animals, and their habitats.
The IUCN (International Union For Conservation of Nature) is the leading body which records wildlife species, their status, and whether or not the species is endangered or not. The IUCN argues that ''conservation breeding has an extremely important role in today's zoos''. The WWF sees captive breeding as a ''last resort'', but they also arguing in a similar manner to the IUCN, in regards to zoos and their roles in conservation.
This is what the WWF says on the matter:
''WWF has long supported the legitimate role of zoos in conservation, education, and research. Captive breeding programmes managed by zoos can provide positive benefits for species conservation if designed and used appropriately, and if they are part of a science-based conservation management plan for the species. ''
And, they go on to say:
''Additionally, some zoos are involved in captive breeding and reintroduction programmes that may help to secure the future of threatened species.''
They have a good point, without humans breeding endangered animals, we cannot secure their future, especially if they are critically endangered. Breeding Critically Endangered and Endangered wild animals are often, essential for their survival.
Without breeding animals, we could lose many species. Knowing that we could lose species, and doing nothing about it, is morally wrong. The survival of species is also essential to a healthy natural world, healthy ecosystems, and, every being on the planet depends on the natural world for their survival.
If we have 'zoos' where animals are looked after properly, replicate their natural environment as much as possible, are large (more like a park, than a zoo), and, where there is a genuine effort to breed the animals, for them to be reintroduced back into the wild, surely, in meeting those conditions, we should breed endangered animals to save them? The alternative is, is that we let endangered wild animals go extinct.
Zoos are not as black and white as we make out. When we say 'zoo' we tend to talk about all animals which are in some form of captivity. However, the term 'zoo' is ambiguous, there are many types of zoos.
We should abolish traditional type zoos. Traditional type zoos are those which are based on entertainment, and locking animals up just so people can gaze at them. We should also abolish travelling zoos, as they only serve the purpose to entertain. Both of these types of zoos are cruel, and unnecessary in this day and age.
But, if we create zoos in a way which is large enough to replicate an animals natural environment, and one which is big enough to do so, then we should do this, only on the occasion for breeding endangered animals. This is necessary for their survival. If we don't, then we risk losing many species of wild animals, some familiar to us, some that are not.
On this Zoo Lovers Day, it's a good day to raise awareness about zoos. Many zoos are unnecessary and cruel, they serve no purpose other than to entertain. Other times, zoos are neccesary, to breed endangered animals, or to provide sanctuary to wild animals which have been orphaned, etc.
The debate about zoos being morally wrong is one of legitimate concern. And, something we don't question enough. But, whether or not zoos remain as legitimate places of animal welfare/conservation, or whether they are places soley for the amusement of humans, is down to us. It is down to what we put our money into. Our money is our vote.