Overwriting animal rights
Is it right to keep wild animals in the zoo? Isn’t it a violation of their rights?
Although the wildlife protection act of 1972 provides for constitution of a central zoo authority that regulates, can recognise or de-recognise zoos and can specify the minimum standard to be followed in zoos, the truth is that zoos mistreat animals and violate their rights.
Cages and cramped enclosures at zoos don’t let animals satisfy their most basic needs. The zoos regard the animals they keep as commodities, and animals are regularly bought, sold, borrowed, and traded without any regard for established relationships. Zoos breed animals because the presence of babies draws zoo visitors and boosts revenue. But the animals’ fate is often bleak once they grow up. Shockingly, some zoos still import animals from the wild.
In general, zoos and wildlife parks preclude or severely restrict natural behavior, such as flying, swimming, running, hunting, climbing, scavenging, foraging, digging, exploring, and selecting a partner.
The physical and mental frustrations and anxiety of captivity often lead to abnormal, neurotic, and even self-destructive behavior, such as incessant pacing, swaying, head-bobbing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation. Even large, well-known, and popular zoos engage in unscrupulous practices, such as dumping unwanted animals or taking animals from the wild. Many buy from poachers. Many zookeepers in India even smuggle animals out of zoos to poachers.
Proponents of zoos like to claim that zoos protect species from extinction, seemingly a noble goal. However, wild-animal parks and zoos for their own benefit, almost always favour large and charismatic animals who draw large crowds of visitors, but they neglect less popular species that also need to be protected.
Most animals in zoos are not endangered and while confining animals to zoos – keeps them alive – it does nothing to protect wild populations and their habitats. In any case no breeding takes place in Indian zoos and 25 per cent of all animals die within a year.
Returning captive-bred animals to the wild is, in most cases, impossible because animals that are kept in zoos are denied the opportunity to learn basic skills to survive in the wild, can transmit diseases to their wild counterparts, and often have no natural habitat left to return to because of human encroachment.
Breeding programs simply produce cute baby animals to attract zoo patrons and generate revenue, creating a surplus of unwanted adult animals. As a result, zoos often become extremely crowded, and older animals may be overcrowded, kept in unhealthy conditions behind the scenes or shuffled off to shabby roadside zoos, animal dealers, or auctions.
According to a 2004 report by the World Conservation Union, the world’s biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate primarily because of human activities that cause pollution, climate change, and the destruction of animals’ habitats and because of the exploitation of animals for food, the pet trade, and medicine.
Captive breeding does nothing to address these serious problems, which currently put more than 7,000 animal species in jeopardy of extinction. In fact, the many millions of dollars that zoos regularly squander – on redesigning enclosures just for cosmetic reasons that do little to nothing to improve animal welfare, erecting statues and amusement rides, and building gift shops – would do far more to help animals if spent on habitat-preservation projects.
Warehousing animals for life is not the way to save them from extinction. Their salvation lies in protecting habitats. Instead of patronising zoos, you should help animals by supporting organisations that work to protect captive animals from exploitation and preserve habitats.
Shouldn’t the use of service animals and beasts of burden be considered exploitative?
Even the words that have been used in the question are offensive: service animals, beasts of burden. It is like naming a human servant or slave. An animal is an animal. He is not voluntarily a beast of burden. Of course animals should have their rights. The time has come to stop using them when we have so many alternatives.
Do donkeys need to carry bricks? Do horses need to carry grooms or pilgrims up mountains? Do bullocks need to carry sugarcane? Is our use of animals humane? Never. We overload them, beat them, don’t take them for medical help, discard them when they break a limb and allow them to die long painful deaths, breed them forcibly and never allow them rest or leisure. What does it say about us? This callousness has seeped into our relations with our children and the children of poor people as well. Our stewardship should be beneficial to both sides and one that is not cruelly exploitative.
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