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Photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur understands the power of an image. For over a decade, she has been fighting to raise awareness of the plight of animals in captivity by using her camera to capture powerful photos that reveal just how sad life for these creatures can be. Zoos and aquariums, which are often thought of as places where humans can learn about animals, are not a happy place for animals to live. In these facilities, animals are forced to live in climates that they are not suited to, in enclosures that are a sorry substitution for the home they would have in the wild or a sanctuary, and they often show signs of a mental condition known as zoochosis.

McArthur has also authored We Animalsa book that “investigates animals in the human environment: whether they’re being used for food, fashion, and entertainment, or research, or are being rescued to spend their remaining years in sanctuaries” through striking photography. In 2016, McArther’s upcoming book, Captive, a book that aims to shed light on how we as humans fail to see the pain of animals in zoos and aquariums, was fully funded on Indiegogo and is set to release later this year. To accompany the release, McArther has launched, A Year of Captivity, a companion social media project to Captive. This image-driven social media campaign, which can be found on both Facebook and Instagram, seeks to promote the book while raising public awareness for captive animals by showing photos of animals in zoos and aquariums across the world. Here are a few of the striking images that are being shared across social platforms.

A brown bear in Croatia presses itself up against the bars of a small, concrete pen, bored out if its mind. Many animals in zoos have little to no enrichment. Imagine spending your life in a tiny room with nothing to occupy your mind.

captiveJo-Anne McArthur / Born Free Foundation

As a captive lion cries out in frustration, a tourist snaps a photo, unaware of how these animals suffer. 

captivebJo-Anne McArthur / Born Free Foundation

According to A Year of Captivity, “this was the fourth baby to be born to a female elephant who rejected all of her calves.” Sadly, all four baby elephants passed away as a result of being rejected by their mother. Death and disease are all too common in captive elephant populations.

captivecJo-Anne McArthur / Zoocheck

Every day in 2017, A Year of Captivity will be releasing photos, like this one below, to drive home the point that these animals deserve to be free.

captivedJo-Anne McArthur / Born Free Foundation

Through her photos, like this one of captive flamingos juxtaposed against a background of a lush environment, McArthur highlights just how unaware we are of the difference between captivity and life in the wild.

captiveeJo-Anne McArthur / Zoocheck


The first step in ending the cruel practice of keeping animals in captivity is education. By using powerful photos, McArthur seeks to confront humans with the not-so-happy side of captivity. To keep up with the campaign, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’re interested in getting a copy of JoAnne McArthur’s Captive, you can do so here. If you want to pick up her previous book, We Animals, visit the official website.

Lead image source: Jo-Anne McArthur / Zoocheck

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0 comments on “Stunning Photos Showcase the Suffering of Animals in Zoos, Aquariums, and More”

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Jack Tummers
8 Months Ago

I love the images of Jo-Anne and agree so much with what they express. I met her a few times here in the Netherlands when she talked about her images and met Eyes on Animals, a group of people that try to improve the welfare of farm animals, especially during transport and slaughter. As for zoos, I\'m also taking pictures trying to show what I feel is a rather absurd way of treating animals, just for the \'pleasure\' of a day out with the kids: http://www.jacktummers.com/-/galleries/projects/my-life-in-the-zoo


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