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July 29, 2013: Confining animals in zoos, wild animal parks, marine mammal parks, etc.

Originally posted on this blog.

As someone who does not like to see wild animals in captivity, Iím not a fan of zoos, marine animal theme parks, etc. Zoos are basically controlled environments that initially came into being in order to allow us to safely see animals that we would normally not be able to see in our daily lives. Unfortunately, this has often meant that the animals were taken out of their natural habitat and put in very unnatural, confined surroundings. None of us would like to be taken out of our natural habitat and put in a glorified cage for the amusement of others, so we shouldn't do this to other animals. We fight to be free, yet so easily deny the same freedom to these poor creatures. The worst type of zoos are the ones that operate on the misguided, archaic view that other animals exist to serve us any way we see fit. The situation in many marine animal theme parks is especially bad since the poor animals who live there are made to do all sorts of tricks.

One of the key concepts of Effaism is to know when to help animals and when to leave them alone in the wild. The majority of zoos donít get this concept, but some do. Many of the better zoos (and they are indeed in a very small minority) put an emphasis of the preservation of species, - taking in animals that are, for one reason or another, endangered in their natural habitat. Unfortunately some animals are not guaranteed a safe life in their natural habitat, due to poaching, hunting, and other such illegal activity. In these types of cases, zoos can serve a conservation purpose. Some of these more ethical zoos do whatever they can to create the best possible life for their animals, recreating their natural environment for them and making them feel as comfortable as possible. Wild animal parks are better, in theory, since they are meant to recreate an animalís natural habitat in the wild. The reason I say "in theory" is that even though this type of environment is meant to be more natural, it is still a controlled environment, and as such, steps have to be taken to ensure that the park is managed well, and that the animals are healthy and happy. Not every wild animal park does this, and many donít provide adequate care, an adequate environment, or even an adequate level of privacy (ie. too much interaction with visitors) for the animals that live there. Furthermore, some of these parks exist in completely inappropriate climates for the animals that live there.

Of course the best possible controlled environment would be an animal refuge or sanctuary, set up as part of a conservation effort; a non-profit organization, unlike nearly all of the above mentioned zoos, marine animal theme parks, wild animal parks, etc. This is the best way to ensure that they animals are in their natural environment; that they are being protected without being placed in cages, in closed-off premises, etc. Although it's true that conservation efforts are still fairly low on most governmentsí agendas, the more people that attain a higher consciousness regarding the need to help other animals, the easier it will be to change this. For now, a good first step is to become aware of whatís going on in the zoo in your area, and if you find that an animal is being kept or treated in an inappropriate manner, to notify the director of the zoo, local animal rights organizations, and any other appropriate authorities. This will send a message that there are people who care about the welfare of these animals, and who will not stand for mistreatment.

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