We Bought A Zoo…And Then We Closed It
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


Paul Graham, Las Vegas Informer
July 2014

It is a shame how we have taught generations of children that this is somehow permissible to do to another living being.

“Visiting a zoo is not educational and entertaining, but like touring prison for the innocent.”
Kim Stallwood

I remember seeing the Matt Damon movie a few years ago about the true story of a widower and his two children looking for a house to move to, finding it, and then realizing that there was a zoo in disrepair attached to it. While it is a somewhat touching movie with some of the family dynamics that go on, nonetheless it still depicts animals living in conditions that are not natural to them and being put on display for entertainment purposes.

I know that zoos have been around a very long time and seem to be a part of many people’s nostalgic ideas of growing up and family outings. I know that is why some people seem to be so set against the idea of animals actually having rights and the ability to live their lives outside of a cage, which can never could have been considered a natural plan for their lives. We are at a place in time where the idea of rights for animals and moving away from long-held notions that we have the right to control animals for own purposes needs not only be considered, but embraced.

I saw a picture this past week that pulled at my heart. It was of a brown bear sitting down with his back to the front of his cage at a zoo, looking extremely sad and dejected. Behind him were a group of children yelling and jeering at him. Though it is not supposed to happen, it is not unusual for things to be thrown at the animals…both physically and verbally. The caption to the picture simply asked this question, “In what way could this be considered educational?”

While zoos, aquariums, sea parks, and the like give humans the opportunities to see and observe animals close-up, they are not seeing them in their natural habitats, so what exactly are we really learning by it? What do we learn by seeing animals forced to do unnatural tricks for our entertainment? I cannot think of any. There is nothing educational in any of that and nothing can be learned that we could not learn from someone who has observed and studied them in their natural habitats. We somehow feel this sense of entitlement as humans that gives us the right to do what we want with animals and we somehow have the right to capture, cage, and enslave them just so that we can see them close up.

This is not a happy life for any animal. You are taking animals who are used to roaming for miles each day or swimming for hundreds of miles each day and caging them in a small area. What we can observe from these animals is that they are sad and depressed. They are usually brought to these facilities after being torn away from their families or packs and forced into a living situation that is indeed like “a prison for the innocent.”

We are also told that because some of these animals are born in captivity that they could not survive in the wild on their own. That is just not true in many cases because their instincts are very strong and once put back into a pack or family unit they can readjust. I am sure given the choice, the animals would rather take their chances in the wild. At the very least, these animals should be put into a sanctuary situation where they are not caged in and can live as free a life as possible for their remaining years.

All over the world, we are beginning to see change begin to happen. Zoos are being closed down. Circuses using live animals are being banned. It is hard for many people to let go of seeing animals in captivity either because of their nostalgic notions or because of greed. Neither justifies enslaving an animal. We eventually came to the conclusion that we could not enslave people either just because it had always been done or because one could profit by it. Animals should have the same right to live freely. We are not entitled to use them, abuse them, keep them captive for any reason, or certainly not to slaughter them for food or clothing.

A conscious part this world is moving away from this and working towards a new reality for these animals and will not give up on this. I am proudly part of that movement and I encourage you to be as well. You may have seen the elephant recently who after being set free from chains after 50 years of captivity actually cried. I did too. We have no right to keep these beautiful creatures captive for any reason. If it takes buying the existing zoos, then closing them down while restricting any new ones being opened…then so be it. Turn the land they sit on into park, or even a sanctuary for some of the animals, but not a zoo to keep them for some people’s pleasure, certainly not for what some deemed to be education.

It is a shame how we have taught generations of children that this is somehow permissible to do to another living being. What I have learned is that we should not do it and the sooner we can change it, the better.

Paul Graham was born and raised in Northern California and has lived in Las Vegas since 2004. He is a top wedding officiate, a green Realtor and writer. He has a daily vegan food blog, Eating Vegan in Vegas which is 365 days and 365 vegan meals in Las Vegas. Paul’s e-book, Eating Vegan in Vegas: If It Can Happen Here, It Can Happen Anywhere is now available at www.sullivanstpress.com.


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