Can Vegans go to the zoo?

When I was a little girl, the Miami Metro Zoo and the Miami Seaquarium ranked among my favorite places to be, right alongside Magic Kingdom and Chef Mickey’s. I loved seeing and learning about animals that I would never get to see otherwise. Seeing the king of the jungle hang out in real life at the zoo was among the coolest things that could happen to a kid like me who grew up watching anthropomorphic Disney movies like The Lion King. Kids have this wonderful ability to form connections with animals and empathize with them (I remember having full conversations at age 6 with my Pomeranian, Princess). Over the course of growing up, many of us lose this connection with animals, and even if we have pets with whom we connect, we sort of forget what lives can be like for animals that aren’t considered pets, beyond the idyllic, classical representations we have of those animals in our heads.

Animals at the zoo are a perfect example of this. We go there to see these beautiful, wild creatures that we don’t get to see in our regular civilian lives, but these animals are not happy and as a kid I never actually processed that (even as an adult, it can be easy to ignore). As a kid, I’d go to the zoo elated to meet new animal friends! I didn’t think about the fact that some had been snatched from their homes, their families, that some had never seen the vastly stunning wild that would be their natural habitat having been born into the dismal, artificial environment of their tiny zoo habitats. I didn’t see their sadness, their boredom, and their frustration the way I did when I went back years later as a young adult– as a kid, I just saw their beauty, their strangeness, I saw them as the physical representation of every cartoon and movie I’d grown up watching. But that’s not what animals are. Animals are trapped in the paradigm we’ve created for them in our society. Zoos aren’t necessary, they are cruel, and what they teach could be just as beautifully done with animatronics as they are done in several Disney Theme Parks. Sentencing these animals to life imprisonment isn’t ethical. The only places that house animals that I support are rescues, sanctuaries, and zoos that have discontinued bringing in new animals from the wild and are now working to sustain lives that have been born under their watch (if they’ve committed to making those animals the last generation born in the confines of a zoo) or have spent so many years at the zoo they wouldn’t know how to survive if released.

So to answer the question posed in the headline of this post, a vegan should not go to the zoo because zoos exist with the sole purpose of profiting from the use of animals.

7 thoughts on “Can Vegans go to the zoo?

  1. I’m a vegetarian and I would not visit a zoo either, though I sort of understand the conservation arguments. Nor would I go to circuses, horse racing or anything that forces animals to perform. Thanks for visiting The Glasgow Gallivanter.t

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  2. I think that modern zoos are often turning into sanctuaries because what else can you do with aging animals from another generation. Even if you are a sanctuary you have to make money, albeit non profit, to feed and look after these animals. Often sanctuaries take care of old circus or gang animals that have nowhere else to go.

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  3. I agree with Anabel, I am glad Ringling Brothers is going to take the animals out of the shows, but what is worse are the small carnivals and circuses that travel across the country. Those animals especially the ponies,breaks my heart. A 90 degree day and it’s in the sun all day walking in a circle. I have always wanted to say something to the people that do that to those poor animals. I would not support them in any way. The rest of the animals in tiny cages, also in the heat. You know they get the most meager care and attention.

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  4. This post is certainly thought provoking. I am not sure I am 100 percent with you on this (but I am not vegan either). I too have looked in the eyes of gorillas and felt only sadness for them. I have studied elephants, and I know they have strong and lasting relationships. The major benefits I can see from zoos are increasing awareness of endangered species, opportunities for learning more about certain animals (although their behaviors will undoubtedly be altered in captivity), and inspiring children to choose careers that involve animals. Now many of these roles can be assumed by our amazing technologies. I am thankful that zoos have progressed from when I was a child and a zoo was a concrete floor and bars–a cage. No protection or privacy. So sad.

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  5. I agree with you 100%. I’m glad that people are becoming aware that animals should not be held in captivity. When it comes to conservation of a species, it should be done in the country and natural habitat of that species. Humans should be restricting their encroachment on animal territory, not the other way around. Thanks for your post.

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