Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The "Educational Value" of Captivity

"I’m a pediatric psychiatrist, and I also love animals, so my concerns are twofold. Animals in confinement often exhibit unnatural and even psychotic behavior, as a result of boredom and inactivity. This is an obvious sign that they are suffering. As for children, I’ve wondered whether a trip to the zoo is an educational experience, or if it only encourages them to treat animals with disrespect. 

 I visited a smaller zoo, and also an aquarium housing marine mammals. If kids learned anything of value by watching these animals, I certainly didn’t see it. What I did see was plenty of mockery and ignorance. Though I hoped to find evidence to the contrary, I must conclude that zoos continue to be detrimental to animal welfare, and that they do not teach children positive lessons about animals. They learn that making sentient beings suffer for human amusement is acceptable. We want to teach kids to show kindness towards animals, not stare at their misery while eating popcorn. 

 A more educational experience can be found at wildlife parks and sanctuaries, where animals are free to roam and do as they please. An even better alternative is watching nature videos, and I don’t mean cowboy shows where macho men tackle and torment dangerous beasts to demonstrate their own prowess. I mean ones with real naturalists who teach kids how animals eat, sleep, and live in the absence of human interference. For young people to fully understand and appreciate wild animals, and especially for them to believe that they’re worth saving, they must learn about their natural behaviors and importance to our ecosystem. Modern zoos teach none of these things." - Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna

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