Monday, 2 November 2009

Zoos must stop breeding animals

Saturday October 31, 2009 The Star

ASK any prisoner if they’d give up “three hot meals and a bed” in exchange for their freedom and the answer would be a resounding “yes!” The same can be said for animals in zoos, who would assuredly prefer to live their lives as nature intended.

Being denied their inherent needs causes most captive animals to develop obsessive, repetitive behaviour such as pacing, neck twisting or swaying.

Malaysia’s Zoo Negara, for example, measures only 0.5 sq km in its entirety. Animals are crammed into barren cages and have been driven insane by their bleak existences.

The elephants bob their heads and weave back and forth – neurotic behaviour that free-roaming elephants don’t display. A bear repeatedly throws himself against the cage bars in despair.

Because visitors to zoos see animals in artificial environments, they learn nothing about who animals really are or how they behave.

Animals are housed in cages that don’t come close to the jungles, deserts, oceans and forests that are their natural homes.

They have no choice in their diets, mates, or living companions. Every aspect of their lives is controlled and managed.

Keeping animals in zoos has no positive affect whatsoever on fostering respect for animals in the wild. They are still hunted, poached, captured for display and otherwise decimated.

If wildlife as we know it is to survive, zoos must stop breeding animals to keep on display and instead direct their resources towards reducing the factors contributing to their decline.

If habitat destruction and poaching aren’t aggressively targeted, all the breeding programmes in the world won’t be enough to save the endangered species.

Readers can learn more at


Director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia,

Hong Kong.