A chance to study animalsFalse. Why does this have to be done on our terms? Aren't the real scientists out there in the jungle like Dian Fossey? It seems to me that any information learned would be either limited to basic physiology or tainted by the unnatural environment.
PreservationFalse. Again, why on our terms? Couldn't we preserve the animals on a giant reserve more suited to their natural habitat? Why do we have to put them on display for people to stare at them? It is shocking to me that the phrase "the first XXX born in captivity" is used as a positive achievement, rather than a mark of shame. We should not be proud that we can artificially recreate an environment well enough to fool the animals. (But then again, we seem pretty proud of our own artificial sweeteners and Coke Zero, so I guess that evens out.)
EducationFalse. Is it really educational, or just a chance to gawk at the strange creatures, and maybe pet an emu? With modern technology, our ability to educate ourselves has improved drastically, and I'm not just talking about the internet. The fantastic BBC series Planet Earth shows us what life in nature is really like. We have pictures, video, sound recordings. None of these were available to the Romans. If they wanted to explain an hippopotamus, they had to bring one to Rome. I would rather promote the art of taxidermy. One stuffed animal in every natural science museum would be less harmful than all the tortured animals in zoos.
I confess that I have fond memories of the zoos I visited as a kid. I loved seeing the animals, especially the giraffes. But even then it seemed somewhat wrong. Back in my childhood, zoos were much more like cages than they are today. But no matter how "natural" it is set up, it is still a cage. I can't think of a good argument to justify zoos, except our own bloated egos. It sickens me.
SeaWorldOn a similar note, SeaWorld is even worse. If you haven't seen the documentary The Cove, I highly recommend it. It is a very disturbing and depressing investigation into the dolphin slaughters that happen annually in Japan. However, I was angered by the misguided direction of the whole film.
Early on, the main protagonist Ric O'Barry (who trained dolphins for the TV show Flipper), says how much he regrets ever training the dolphins. He talks about his shame that there are SeaWorld amusement parks all over the world, basically because of him. The Japanese fishermen corral hundreds of dolphins to sell to the SeaWorld franchises for about $100,000 a piece. Any that don't sell are killed rather than released back into the wild.
The dolphin slaughter is a horrific tragedy, but here's where the movie went wrong. They spend the rest of the time trying to prove this was going on, and condemning Japan for allowing it. Like typical Americans, they attack the symptom and not the disease. These fishermen wouldn't be doing this if there weren't demand from SeaWorld. Why didn't the movie attack them? Why didn't they call for a boycott of dolphin shows? Is it easier to condemn a country than a corporation?
And when Dawn Brancheau was killed by a performing whale, the outcries were to release or kill the whale. SeaWorld did neither. They kept the whale in anticipation of resuming the shows when the furor has died down. How could people condemn the whale for behaving naturally, and not condemn the company for keeping it unnaturally? It all angers me so much.
If I'm lucky enough to have kids, they'll hate me for it. But I refuse to support the cruelty of zoos or SeaWorld.