Zoos, aquariums, and circuses should be illegal

Photo: Genessa Gutzait· The Sentry Animals aren’t meant to be stripped away from their natural habitats.

Photo: Genessa Gutzait· The Sentry
Animals aren’t meant to be stripped away from their natural habitats.
They continue to perpetuate violence against animals

Animals are fascinating creatures, and humans are aware of that—as evident from the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and even documentaries like Blue Planet streaming on Netflix. For some reason, the observation of animals in their natural habitats has captivated viewers across the globe, as each episode acts as an escape into the wild world. However, that should be the only way animals should be seen as far as entertainment purposes go. After seeing the majestic beauty of animals roaming the African tundra, creatures diving deep into the penumbras of the Arctic ocean, or even animals soaring to the highest trees in the Amazon rainforest, can someone really say that they enjoy going to zoos, aquariums, and circuses and seeing animals being subjected to escalating acts of oppression?

The only exception where zoos and aquariums would be appropriate would be places where their sole purpose is to work to protect endangered species and encourage breeding to help get the populations of these animals back up to acceptable levels, in addition to releasing said endangered species back into their natural habitat. Other places would include zoos similar to that of the Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee, which operates as a wildlife rehabilitation center that cares for injured, orphaned, or displaced animals until they are ready to be released back into the wild or aquatic rescue and rehabilitation centers that specialize in providing urgent care for animals in need.

Aside from that, it just isn’t right to see animals confined to a space that is a third of the space they would get in their natural environment, and on top of that, in a place where the weather isn’t compatible or appropriate for animals who are used to a different setting—like here in Colorado where the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is subject to snow and high elevations, a place that is inappropriate for animals such as elephants who are used to warmer climates.   

But zoos aren’t the only culprits in keeping animals in confined spaces; aquariums do this all the time with marine life. For animals that swim vast distances every day in the open ocean, being in captivity results in these animals having to swim in endless circles in tanks that are equivalent to the size of a bathtub and are denied the opportunity to engage in almost any natural behavior. Instead, they are taught meaningless tricks, are torn away from their families, and are constantly at risk for developing health issues, such as shorter life spans or being exposed to pathogens and bacteria for aquariums that offer “petting pools” or “swim-with” programs. Even so, while rare, there have been several reports of animals “lashing out” on people due to being under constant psychological and physical abuse/stress.

But no one knows abuse like circuses do, as they harbor a decades-long history of animal cruelty in an effort to create the “greatest show on Earth.” On top of a life of regular transport, cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training, behaviorally unnatural performances, and loud noises and crowds, more severe acts of animal cruelty in circuses include inflicting beatings and putting animals in solitary confinement. Even today, circuses like Carson and Barnes are still in operation even though they have had several reports of attacking their animals with electric prods and sharp, steel-tipped bullhooks.

It shouldn’t be up for discussion to ban and make zoos, aquariums, and circuses illegal. It’s time people start looking past the glamor and allure and realize that these institutions continue to perpetuate animal cruelty. 

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