Zoos and Mistreatment


Gwyn W.

When I was a small child, I used to visit the zoo a few times a year, much like other kids. I had a certain love for animals, so the zoo was a place that peeked my interest drastically. My family would take me for the day and we would be there for hours on end, exploring and looking at the large variety of animals. It was a settling and happy experience for us, knowing my brother and I were decently well-behaved children, we were able to obey the rules of the zoo. However, not every individual was capable of following the simple set of rules. I often saw other children bang harshly on the glass of the small enclosure the animal was placed in. People were loud, even though the signs hanging around the zoo asked for them to be quiet around the animals. Children threw tantrums. People attempted to give animals some of their food. Others tried to pet them without permission. So, I began to think about not only zoos, but all the other entertainment industries that use animals, such as circuses and Sea World, and I started to wonder if these types of organizations were really healthy for animals, and truthfully, they are far from it. 


In 2010, Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau was brutally murdered by one of the killer whales she often performed and trained with. It happened after one of their performances, she had gotten out of the water and was pulled back in by Tilikum, one of the largest whales they had at the time. It struck media attention, and people began to wonder why the whale acted out so suddenly. It was proved that the whale had been mistreated nearly his whole life since he was captured and taken from the sea at the age of two. Since then, he was put in extremely small spaces, forced to perform for hours per day, and then at the end of the day crammed into a small metal container with two other orcas for about 14 hours. He lived like this for about 27 years, until the time of the attack. The constant stress put on Tilikum was overwhelming and made the whale psychotic, which was a huge contributing factor to his sudden outburst in 2010. Unfortunately, this happens to nearly all the animals that are constantly forced to perform, as they are extremely mistreated. 


Sea World is not the only industry mistreating its animals, as circuses are practically known for animal abuse. According to DoSomething.org, a global movement designed to help make a difference around the world, they state that circuses lock animals in small cages, where the animal eats, sleeps, and defecates, with the cage not being cleaned as frequently as it should be. Circuses also use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electrical prods, and other painful tools to get animals to perfect performances. With 96% of a circus animal’s life being spent in chains or a cage, you have to begin to question if it is really a healthy place for an animal to be. 

Zoos are a tricky concept to wrap your head around. From the outside, a zoo looks like a nice place that is helping animals. However, that is entirely wrong. According to Sentient Media, they state that “Zoos engage in animal exploitation by profiting from the visitor attention and conservation grants they garner while providing the captive animals with a poor quality of life. Since 1995, zoos have turned to antidepressants, tranquilizers, and antipsychotic drugs to alleviate depression and aggression among zoo animals across America.” This proves that animals are unhappy in their zoo habitat, and experience lots of trauma being separated from their family. Zoos also provide stress on animals as they are being stared at for hours a day, and not everyone visiting knows how to properly respect the guidelines. People praise zoos for “rescuing” animals from dangerous and ruined habitats, when in fact humans are the ones ruining those habitats. Overall, zoos are just as harmful to animals as the other industries, they are just better at hiding it. 


At the end of the day, no organization can treat an animal perfectly. These creatures deserve to be free and at home, where they belong, in the wild.