Zoos and aquariums suck

So it’s time we stopped enslaving the animal kingdom and using and abusing animals for our own entertainment. These days zoos are all pimped-up in ersatz natural settings with visuals designed to camouflage the cage; aquariums flog the education justification and make whales, who are probably more intelligent than humans, do tricks. And don’t get me started about elephants in the circus.


Recently I perused a photography blog which featured the author’s trips to zoos. The author enthused about how a gorilla made eye contact with him and how amazing that experience was. Sheesh, talk about being blind.

I was blinded, too, as so many of us have been.

When I was a child there used to be two polar bears in a pit at the Vancouver Zoo. The pit was small and made of cement with high cement walls and at the top was a rim of jagged metal teeth so the humans wouldn’t lean too far forward. To the bears it must have looked like they were trapped inside an enormous mouth of jagged teeth. My little heart didn’t know what I was seeing but each time I looked down upon the bears I was transfixed by how one of them moved. Over and over again, endlessly, all day long, it kept its head low and swung it slowly from side to side, while it trudged forward on the cement for 4 meters and then backward for 4 meters. I used to love seeing the polar bears and I didn’t connect to their suffering for many years.

When I was traveling in China in 1986 I went to the Chengdu Zoo and saw how people took their entertainment to another level. They tormented the animals, spitting on the bears as they stood on their hind legs in the cement pit below, poking the monkeys through the bars and laughing as the monkeys tried to attack them back.

When children are taught that it’s acceptable to cage creatures, they take suffering for granted, to the point of it being invisible. Children learn to not feel the pain of others, and what’s worse, they learn to not feel their own pain.

8 thoughts on “Zoos and aquariums suck

  1. sheila says:

    Your post reminded me of seeing a polar bear at Singapore Zoo recently – it made me vow never to visit a zoo again. The height of irony had to be seeing people riding elephants near Chiang Mai whilst we were en route to an elephant sanctuary…which rescued elephants from such a horrendous fate. Ugh.


    • Oh, that poor bear. I heard about Chiang Mai and the riding of elephants. Good for you for supporting the rescue efforts instead. I once rode an elephant in Bangkok, in 1986, and feel terrible about it now, so I’m living proof than we can overcome our ignorance. 🙂


    • So true, seeing whales in the wild provokes a feeling of deep joy and nothing like the creepy voyeurism that comes from watching them in a swimming pool, which is akin to forcing a human to live in a bathtub.


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