I’m sure we’re all guilty of visiting numerous zoos, aquariums and other establishments that keep animals in captivity mainly for human entertainment. Dog fights, horse racing, fishing, hunting and bull fights make spectacles of the animals, but tend to be socially accepted as they are seen as fun or culturally important.
Reflecting on the past, I have taken part in activities that have caused harm to animals, such as visiting Sea World in Orlando, riding elephants in Bali and camels in Morocco as well as swimming with dolphins, I now feel remorseful, due to the fact I now understand the trauma that the animals typically endure.
The animals used for these purposes are often kept in unsuitable conditions, that lack the space and diversity of their natural habitats and are put under great pressure by the viewing public, often causing stress and an increased number of ARBs (abnormal repetitive behaviours) such as pacing and rocking, as well as more harmful behaviours such as self mutilation.
Animals travelling with circuses often face even worse conditions, as they are on the road constantly so are confined to small boxes. When let out of these, they typically are trained using cruel, inhumane methods. This can cause animals to display behaviour typically not associated with the species, such as the case of Tyke the elephant in 1994 where she killed her trainer and 12 spectators, before being gunned down. Elephants are typically animals that show no aggression to humans, and therefore must have experienced a great change in behaviour due to the confinement and training it had received. While the general consensus is that animals should not longer be used in this outdated practise, a law still has not been passed against it, as in 2015 the proposed ban was blocked by Conservative MPs for the 12th and final time.
Even places that claim to be rescue parks, or sanctuaries often also undertake poor animal husbandry. While most do care for their animals efficiently, some are said to be no better than most zoos, with poor living conditions and harmful treatment yet ask for donations in order to keep their practices going.
While many motives exist for keeping animals in captivity, such as entertainment, education and research, it is clear than in many cases the needs of the animals are overlooked, which should be fundamental aspect.