Should the future of educating the public about exoticanimals be in sanctuaries and virtual zoos, not places where animals are kept in cages?
The high-profile death of the gorilla Harambe, who was shot dead in 2016 at the Cincinnati Zoo after a young boy fell into his enclosure, sparked a massive outcry—and conversation—about what is still one of the most hotly contested debates involving animal welfare. Just this past weekend, activists turned up at the Bronx Zoo to demand the release of Happy the elephant, chanting in unison that “Happy is not happy.” Indeed, the idea that keeping animals in captivity is morally acceptable has long been questioned by those who argue that zoos infringe upon animals’ freedom. In recent years, an increase in research on the ethics of captivity has helped to dispel the misconception that critics of zoos are simply anthropomorphizing the animals they say they’re trying to help.
But not everyone agrees. Robin Ganzert, CEO of American Humane, recently penned an essay in USA Today arguing that zoos “protect animals and restore endangered species, even as some activists seek to dismantle these arks of hope.” Is she right? Should animal advocates and conservationists be rallying around zoos?