Zoo officials often consider profits ahead of the animals’ well-being. A former director of the Atlanta Zoo once remarked that he was “too far removed from the animals; they’re the last thing I worry about with all the other problems.” Zoos teach people that it is acceptable to keep animals in captivity, bored, cramped, lonely, far from their natural homes, and at the mercy and whim of people.
Zoos claim to educate people, but most zoo enclosures are quite small, and labels provide little more information than the species’ name, diet, and natural range. The animals’ normal behavior is seldom discussed, much less observed, because their natural needs are seldom met in the zoo environment. The many animals who naturally live in large herds or family groups are often kept alone or, at most, in pairs. Natural hunting and mating behaviors are virtually eliminated by regulated feeding and breeding regimens. The animals are closely confined, lack privacy, and have little opportunity for mental stimulation or physical exercise, resulting in abnormal and self-destructive behavior, called zoochosis. Not only is this not educational, we believe a true desire to learn about animals should be motivated by and in keeping with a genuine interest in the animals’ well-being.
To learn more, see PETA’s factsheet about zoos.