Are Zoos Cruel?

Last summer I visited Cape May Zoo in New Jersey, USA. It’s a huge zoo, and is absolutely free. As I wandered through the zoo and captured some great pictures I was impressed by how well treated the animals were and how much room they had – for a few moments I truly felt happy for the animals.

However, a few moments later I came across a leopard. There was a wooden fence which had a gap in it, and I was able to take a candid shot of the leopard – I deliberately left the chain link fence in the photo as I realized how poignant and sad the end result was.

As I ‘spied’ on this tortured soul I realized that no matter how well treated these animals are, no matter how large their compound is, they are still trapped in a man made prison. They do not have a choice to stay or leave, they simply have to endure.

As I looked at him I could almost feel the sadness and longing – his eyes seemed distant and reflective and I wonder what he was thinking. This one moment changed my perspective, and while there is no intentional cruelty, I do feel zoos are cruel.

With the amount of empty land in the world it’s a shame we can’t create huge wild live reserves where all zoo animals can be set free and be allowed to live their lives without relying on humans to feed them and nurture them.

Perhaps it’s a pipe dream, but it’s one I’d truly love to come true.

Do you believe zoos are cruel?


What do you think?

Written by SimeyC


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  1. I feel very sad when I go to zoos. I react when I get to the gorilla enclosure at the Erie, PA zoo. The knowing gaze of these trapped beasts strike me to the core. I remember at Geauga Lake, Ohio crying for some reason as I watched killer whales​ perform wishing that they could experience the freedom intended for them.

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