Sunday, December 30, 2007

Free Willy

On reflection, I think the zoo arguments more or less balance out. The Pi view that animals are safe and protected versus the alternative view that zoos are inherently bad. So spacious well-managed zoos might be ok in principle, but they will still be stressful for the inmates due to the unvalidated visitors - they cause the taunting, provocation and general pushing at territorial boundaries that disrupt any peaceful existence.

But even for the best zoos I'd still draw the line before whales and other sentient beings. They should be free and exempt from zoological restriction.

Yet we still encourage the confinement of apes in small enclosures, taunt them, provoke them, laugh at them, deprive them of normal social contacts, restrict their exercise, give them artificial diets and generally create the complete antithesis of the natural environment in which they are evolved to thrive.

Of course I refer to The Human Zoo. Thank you Desmond Morris.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I believe the benefits provided by zoos (i.e. awareness, funding, research, etc.) definitely outweigh the negatives. One other thought though on your drawing the line at "sentient beings." Interestingly, the beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium, hate the larger tanks. They prefer the comfort and security of the smaller tank. Now maybe this is symptomatic of their sensory deprived upbringing, but it's not always clear cut as to whether animals want more space after a certain point.

RNB said...

Good point dekreeft. That was basically the argument that I echoed from the Pi book - that many animals will be perfectly "satisfied" with a secure well-managed territory, even if it is as small as a zoo enclosure.

Incidentally I don't think that great apes are satisfied the same way - hence the desire of many humans to escape from cities.