Skip to content

Captivity Animals Essay

Wild animals are kept in captivity for a variety of reasons and in a range of environments, including zoos and circuses, scientific laboratories and also as pets at home. Caring for a captive animal takes time, money and knowledge to provide everything the animal needs, such as food, water and the correct environment, to prevent suffering and ensure good welfare, but many countries treat animals with terrible cruelty. In my opinion no wild animal should be kept in captivity except if an animal is injured or to save a species from extinction. I believe that caging a wild animal is regrettable. Many zoo exhibit animals like the articles in a shop window but we really don’t know what there is behind this exposition. The owners of the parks often have a poor and disrespectful behavior towards animals. They use them only for an economic profit.

Animals have to live their life in a few square meters, with not enough food, exposed to weather conditions that are unnatural for them. Circuses exploit animals making them to perform ridiculous tricks. Bears are humanized, they are forced to wear silly berets and to play horn. Tigers naturally fear fire but they are still forced to jump through fire hoops. Trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, and other painful tools of the trade to force animals to perform. The most part of circus animal’s life is spent in chains or cages and because of their forced immobility, they may develop arthritis or other joint problems. I find this intolerable As for/ In the matter of scientific experimentation on animals, I believe we should be aware of the cruelty often inflicted in this way. Personally I feel that in some cases this may be useful.

Sometimes experiments may be necessary for the research on cancer and others diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. However I’m greatly against the use of animals to test the efficacy or toxicity of cosmetics or perfumes. The results of the experiments aren’t always reliable. They aren’t able to guarantee that a product will have the same effect on a human being as it does on an animal. In conclusion I would argue that is inacceptable to keep wild animals in captivity or experiment on them, except in very few cases. Discoveries about nature have shown us that animals have feelings. The can feel depression and anxiety.

I need a peer review for my paper, please. Any input would be appreciated. Some areas that I struggle with are indentation, complicated wording, and misuse of commas. I am aware that I have to alphabetize my works cited list still! :)

Life Behind Bars: The Effects of Animal Captivity

English 102
Ryan Jones
01 September 2016

When someone chooses to commit a crime, they run the risk of being caught and put behind bars. Ultimately, it is their choice to engage in criminal activity and risk this type of punishment. There are approximately over 10,000 zoos worldwide (Fravel, 8), where wild animals are held confined against their will, never given a choice. These captive animals live a mundane existence; they are forced to live in habitats that are a small percentage of what the wild would provide, and they experience little environmental excitement, the impact these conditions have on these innocent animals are horrific. Captivity impacts their life-span, their mental and physical health, and deprives them of living in their natural environment. Living in captivity, these animals can experience psychological disorders very similar to humans, such as anxiety, depression, and OCD. Imagine being taken away from your family and thrown inside a cage with paintings of your home on the wall, people shouting and pointing at you, while taking countless photos against as you are trapped there against your will. Since animals cannot speak for themselves, it is imperative to speak for them, they are living beings that have feelings and experience trauma just like humans. Essentially, what defines the difference between humans and an animal? Aristotle described humans as, belonging to the small group of self-aware social mammals that includes chimps and dolphins (Tafarella, 22). If animals are able to experience similar feelings and awareness that humans do, it is abuse to keep them under artificial conditions. Painting a portrait of a rainforest does not even begin to mimic their natural environment, and it is insanity to imagine that it could. The only way to prevent this from continuing is to stop imprisoning these animals and stop supporting zoos or other attractions that profit over the captivity of animals. Animals that are confined for public viewing should be moved to a sanctuary to stop the psychological, physical and unfair conditions seen in captivity.

As children and even as adults, we all most likely have experienced a visit to the zoo. Being able to see these amazing animals in person is a draw for many as it is exciting to see these wild animals up close and personal. One way the zoo doors remain open is by keeping the public ignorant and not broadcasting what effect captivity has on these animals. The cognitive and behavioral effects are so regularly witnessed on animals in captivity that it has been given its own name, commonly referred to as Zoochosis. The abnormal and stereotypic behavior seen in captive animals as they are driven to mental and physical illness. Zoochosis is not isolated to only certain facilities; the impact is seen worldwide:

Captive zoo animals have been documented, from New Zealand to Egypt to the U.K. and the U.S., to exhibit symptoms of neurological distress. This atypical behavior, categorized by a number of different traits, is so common that it has been given its own label: Zoochosis. (Garlow, 8)

Zoos provide no enrichment to an animal's life and due to their confined conditions, animals invent their own impulsive abnormal and sometimes harmful behavior. In a 2001 study of 257 captive Giraffe and Okapi in 49 US institutions, it was found that 80% exhibited some form of stereotypic behavior. (Zoochotic Behaviour - Stereotypic Behaviour, 14). Some of the behaviors include bar biting, neck twisting, head bobbing, pacing, and self-mutilation. The behavior seen is caused by humans forcing animals to live in unnatural habitats (Smith, 12). Frankly, it is impossible to replicate the same conditions these animals would experience living among the wild. A mural of a plush land does nothing for an animal in captivity, and the size of their enclosure is nothing similar their natural environment. The stark difference of captive life vs. life in the wild, more specifically, an elephant, is not even a justifiable comparison. Elephants are known as one of the world's most intelligent animals, and they thrive on close contact with other elephants and frequent exercise to remain happy and healthy.

In the wild, they live with as many as 100 other elephants. They have constant companionship and are emotionally attached to other members of the group - they even show visible signs of mourning when an elephant close to them passes away. They walk up to 40 miles a day. They play, bathe in rivers and engage in constant exercise (Sentanac, 13).

In captivity, elephants are often alone or in an enclosure with two or three elephants, depriving them of the socialization they desperately need and crave. The sad conditions not only effect wild animals on land but aquatic animals as well. Orca whales are known to swim 100 miles a day in the wild, their tanks at SeaWorld, for example, are the size of a bathtub to the confined whales. They would need to swim 1,208 laps (around the perimeter of the tank) or 3,105 lengths (back and forth at the longest part of the tank) in the park's largest tank to equal what they'd swim in the wild (8 Reasons Orcas Don't Belong at SeaWorld, 16).

Zoos claim to be conserving animal species by breeding programs. These programs move animals around the country when they identify a genetically suitable mate. Since zoos are not breeding these animals for eventual release, they are only conserving for their own benefit by ensuring a confined population will continue. Captive breeding may also be seen as a diversion to make it appear that these animals are being protected and maintained, while, in reality, their natural habitats continue to be destroyed, leaving them nowhere to go. As zoos spend millions of dollars to keep an animal confined, that money should be funding protection for animals in the wild. In fact, it is nearly impossible to release captive-bred animals. Due to their synthetic surroundings, their natural instincts diminish.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology concluded that unless animals in the wild are protected, captive breeding won't make a difference. Lead researcher Dr Paul Dolman said: "Our research challenges the assumption that when a species is perilously close to extinction in the wild, it is always a good idea to set up a captive breeding population ... Without conservation in the wild there is no point in captive breeding." (Don't zoos help to preserve endangered species?, 11).

It is illegal for a zoo to capture wild animals and have them displayed them to the public, but that doesn't deter zoos from breeding their next big attraction. Strictly breeding for profit, and not to benefit the species, these animals are bred generation after generation. And sadly it seems that there is no limit to what breeders will do. Logically speaking, if the goal of captive breeding was solely about conserving a species, wouldn't every life matter? It sadly is not, and the main concern is what animal makes the most money and will be the biggest attraction. White tigers, for example, are being inbred to attract more visitors to the zoo. Out of a litter of cubs, the breeders will pick the white cubs that bring in a lot more money on the market and euthanize, inhumanely destroy or neglect the cubs that do not meet the color requirement (The Truth About White Tigers, 25). Genetic manipulation and inbreeding didn't come without its risks, and sadly the animal is the one that suffers from this superficial process.

It's been said the entire captive white tiger population originated from one single white tiger and has been inbred ever since. In order to retain this recessive gene, zoos and breeders must continually inbreed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on. This inbreeding has caused many genetic problems with tigers such as cleft palates, scoliosis of the spine, mental impairments and crossed eyes. Many of the cubs that are born either in zoos or by breeders have to be 'disposed' of because they are malformed at birth (Staff2, 9).

A captive-born panda, named Xiang Xiang, was the first giant panda ever released into the wild. Conversationalists had hoped that the release of Xiang Xiang would be the start of a successful program to reintroduce pandas into their habitat. Upon release, the panda was fitted with a tracking device that would allow researchers to follow the path of the panda to keep track of his whereabouts and document the success of his release. Sadly, despite their efforts, Xiang Xiang was found deceased. Scratches and other superficial wounds were documented on his body, most likely from other pandas. Broken ribs and serious internal injury were found during the autopsy, speculating that he may have fallen from a tree, possibly the result of being chased by other pandas defending their territory. Since Xiang Xiang was born and raised in captivity, the panda was on his own, having no family members and limited survival skills. Evidence of his struggle in adjusting to life in the wild appeared early on, as documented by his attached tracking collar:

A panda's range is typically 1.5 to 2 square miles (4 to 5 square kilometers). But radio tracking of Xiang Xiang indicated that he had been roaming over a much greater area. Researchers believe that other males were keeping the panda on the move by chasing him away from their patches, Brody said. "He was trying to find a spot to call his own, but he was unsuccessful in doing so." (Owen, 45).

A life in captivity free from predators, no hunting, and their own little habitat, that is how it is portrayed when you visit the zoo, and the zoo wants it to appear that it is that way. Having no predators, the life of a zoo animal should outlive or at least match the average life expectancy of an animal in the wild. Sadly, that is not true. African elephants in the wild can live approximately 60 years, while their zoo-born life expectancy is 17 years. Obesity and stress are likely factors for their considerably short life in captivity (Mott, 12). Aquatic animals, such as Orcas, fare no better in their average life expectancy in captivity. In the wild, male Orcas are estimated to live 60-70 years, and females live an estimated 80-90 years (Rose, 39). Among captive whales, only two female whales have passed the age of 40. Given the fact that these animals are in captivity, and supposedly given 24/7 veterinary care, you wouldn't expect these findings.

When a marine animal dies at an oceanarium, spokespeople will often make statements that death is a natural phenomenon and is to be expected and accepted. Yet at the same time they claim that captivity provides advantages (e.g., veterinary care, reliable food source, no predators or parasites) not available to the species in the wild. Therefore, according to oceanarium rhetoric, conditions in captivity are the same as in the wild when an animal dies but better at all other times. This inconsistent reasoning has unfortunately been accepted for years by the general public, the media, and even the scientific and regulatory communities (Rose, 82).

It is sensible to assume if zoos never existed, and the idea of their development was introduced for what it really is, it would not come to fruition. A zoo is merely a prison for animals that strips them of their freedom and their natural habitat, while driving them to insanity and early death. Because of the generic conditions these animals are born in, the chance of them surviving successfully out in the wild is not very likely. Although, I am sure if these animals could talk, they would rather take the risk and be released back to the wild instead of a miserable life purely existing for the gaze of humans.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Animal sanctuaries are non-profit rescue centers, and their goal is for protecting the animal and not for profit like zoos. They do not force animals to reproduce; their goal is to help rescued animals live in peaceful and natural environments without exploitation. A true sanctuary isn't opened to the public; their goal is the life of the animal and not driven by thirst for profit:

At PAWS [an animal sanctuary], rescued animals live in peaceful and natural habitats, free from fear, chains and harsh confinement. Individually designed enclosures encourage natural behavior and dedicated keeping staff monitor the animals 24/7, 365 days a year. (What is a Wildlife Sanctuary?, 32).

The suffering that animals experience while in confinement cannot be ignored. Animals are living beings that have feelings and emotions just like the rest of us. No one wants to live in a confined space for the rest of their life or be born into a life of captivity. There is too much proof that this is emotionally and physically harmful to these living and breathing animals, the public needs to be aware and care about the well-being of these beautiful animals. One way to stop zoos and other animal amusement parks from keeping their doors open is by boycotting them and making it known that no one will pay to see an animal suffer.

Works Cited
Tafarella, Santi. "What Is a Human, Really? Thinking about Definition via Aristotle." Prometheus Unbound. N.p., 2011. Web. 03 Sept. 2016.

Rose, N. A. 2011. Killer Controversy: Why Orcas Should No Longer Be Kept in Captivity. Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States, Washington, D.C. 16 pp.

"Performing Animal Welfare Society -- PAWS." Performing Animal Welfare Society -- PAWS. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2016.

Garlow, Ariel. "Zoochosis and the Many Ways We Have Failed Zoo Animals." One Green Planet. N.p., 12 June 2014. Web. 03 Sept. 2016.

Staff2 "The Truth About White Tigers." The Wildcat Sanctuary|An Accredited, Natural Sanctuary for Big Cats in Need. N.p., 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 03 Sept. 2016.

Owen, James. "First Panda Freed Into Wild Found Dead." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2016.

Mott, Maryann. "Wild Elephants Live Longer Than Their Zoo Counterparts." National Geographic. N.p., 12 Dec. 2008. Web. 03 Sept. 2016.