We were at Disney World last week, and spent a day at the Animal Kingdom park. It was one of my favorite days. I loved the safari and seeing a lot of exotic animals in an open setting. I understand these animals are captive, that they have been put into an unnatural environment for my viewing pleasure. I admit to a lot of difficulty with this idea, but have to deal with my ambivalence in order to see these creatures in real life.
I always believed zoos and other animal "businesses" generally had conservation and animal welfare as part of their mission (clearly circuses are excepted). But, I have recently been told of a movie called "The Cove" that shows how dolphins are slaughtered in the attempt to find performance animals for places like SeaWorld. We intended to go to SeaWorld on our trip to Florida until that information (along with the death of a trainer) made us scratch that off the itinerary. Now I wonder if aquariums are suspect, or even well-known zoos.
We love going to Brookfield Zoo, and are even members. We receive a magazine quarterly that tells of their exhibits, but also about animals, their habitats, and their preservation efforts. I know zoo animals are kept in confines that are much smaller than their natural spaces, and their entire life cycle is altered to fit the environment. I do believe the keepers treat the animals well and keep them healthy. I also believe it's important for children to understand about biodiversity and conservation, and zoos can provide a lot of education. Plus it's amazing to see a lion or a gorilla or an elephant standing right there in front of you!
So back to my ambivalence. I don't think I'm going to be able to resolve it in this one entry! I am a vegetarian, I love my pets and animals of all kinds. I won't go to the circus, or now to dolphin shows. But I think the zoo is humane, if not natural or ideal. Maybe my thoughts will change with more information. I read The Omnivore's Dilemma, and thought I could eat meat or seafood that was "humane." More education changed that idea drastically. I will keep an open eye and ear to learn more so I can continue to make the most compassionate decisions.