Zoos requesting more funds to save the industry...but what about the animals?
Over the summer, we published a post about zoos and aquariums receiving £100 million in public money in order to help them cope with financial difficulties brought on by COVID. We questioned the value of this, considering how little zoos do for either conservation or education, not to mention the countless incidents of neglect and cruelty attributed to them. (Check out our earlier post for more detail.)
And now, zoos and aquariums are asking for more--much more. Specifically, they are requesting that the government's current 'Zoo Animal Fund' be replaced with a 'Zoo Recovery Fund'. According to Freedom for Animals:
Whilst the Zoo Animal Fund was designed with the intention to make sure animals in zoos and aquariums don't suffer due to financial difficulties, the BIAZA-proposed 'Zoo Recovery Fund' would go much further and would constitute a recovery package for the whole sector. Their letter mentions nothing about saving individual animals, just saving the industry. Alarmingly, this would mean that the cycle of animal suffering within such centres would be allowed to continue indefinitely. (source)
Freedom for Animals has an open letter you can sign.
In the meantime, how long must we as a society entertain the absurd arguments of an industry that insists that zoos are about helping animals, rather than amusing humans? For no matter how much we point to the rare conservation success story, there are thousands more that failed. For every individual animal who managed to integrate into the wild, there are far, far more who spent their entire lives in captivity. Such a system is monstrously inefficient; 70 to 75% of the 850 mammal species and subspecies held captive in European zoos are not threatened in the wild and have been assessed as being of 'Least Concern' on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Only 45 of these 850 species--or 5%--are critically endangered, and in fact leading conservationist Damian Aspinall actually argues that perhaps only three of these 45 species are actually viable.
The above only seems a fair trade if we gauge the value of non-human animals on a species-wide basis. After all, a species can go extinct, but it cannot suffer. Only individuals can suffer--and they do in the millions, as zoos churn out one baby giraffe or bear or meerkat after another to bring in customers, only to kill as many as 10,000 animals a year for being 'surplus to requirement'.
Many conservation experts now argue that money should be spent preserving wild spaces and protecting endangered species in situ, not propping up a cruel, outdated industry that was, in many cases, losing money before the pandemic. See our own Belfast Zoo, for example.
McKee, Robin, Is it time to shut down the zoos?, The Guardian, 2 February 2020
Aspinall, David, Zoos are outdated and cruel; it's time to make them a thing of the past, The Independent, 14 August 2019
Mott, Maryann, Wild Elephants Live Longer Than Their Zoo Counterparts, National Geographic, 11 December 2008
Fravel, Laura, Critics Question Zoos' Commitment to Conservation, National Geographic, 13 November 2003
Freedom for Animals' Investigations
Born Free, which work to 'keep wild animals in the wild' while funding and carrying out conservation initiatives