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Zoo and marine park professionals often argue that the educational benefits for children of keeping animals in captivity outweighs any adverse impacts that this may have on the animals (that is, if they can bring themselves to acknowledge that captivity has any adverse impact on them at all).

SeaWorld, for example, have been known to cite childrens’ curiosity as the reason why marine animals like orcas, dolphins, and seals should continue to be kept captive in its theme parks, by saying, “These animals in this park can inspire kids. We love the animals that we’re working with.” They also accused animal activists of “lying about the benefits of having these animals in a zoo and aquarium.”

In response to this claim, Lori Marino, executive director at the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy (KCAA), said, “There is no current evidence, from well-controlled studies in the peer-reviewed literature, supporting the argument that captive animal displays are educational or promote conservation in any meaningful sense. How do I know? I’ve reviewed the literature and published our findings on this issue.”

So, Can Zoos or Marine Parks Really Inspire Children to Care About Conservation?

A research paper that was published in the academic journal Conservation Biology last year set out to explore the question of whether zoos do, in fact, provide children with a high-quality education about wild animals. Researchers interviewed over 2,800 children after they had visited the London Zoo, and 62 percent of them showed no indication of having learned new information about animal or environmental conservation. The report concluded that visiting a zoo can, in fact, produce a “negative learning outcome” in kids. Its findings showed that the children “did not feel empowered to believe that they can take ‘effective ameliorative action’ on matters relating to conservation after their zoo experience.”

A UK government-commissioned report produced in 2010 also expressed concerns that, “despite zoos promoting education programs, there was little evidence of educational impact by the industry.”

When kids are placed into a zoo or marine park environment – in which the animals are displayed to them as exhibits, to be put on show for human amusement – they often come to believe that it is appropriate to disturb them as they wish. It is easy for them to feel that they are entitled to deprive the animals of sleep or privacy and demand that they be entertained … no matter how many “do not disturb the animals” or “do not tap on the glass” signs zoos place on the enclosures.

The animal advocate group Animal Equality cuts to very heart of the issue by saying:

The alleged ‘educational’ role of zoos needs to be challenged if we want to live in a just and equitable society that respects animals. If zoos teach anything, they teach us dangerous lessons. They teach us that humans have the right to enslave animals and reinforce the notion that animals have no other purpose other than for our benefit. Zoos do not teach us to respect other individuals and their lives. The behavior of animals in zoos is typical of many other animals in captivity. It is stunted and unnatural. Zoos do not teach children about the natural attributes of animals, on the contrary, zoos provide a distorted image and teach them how animals should NOT be living.

What Are the Alternatives to Bringing Kids to a Zoo?

There are plenty of ways to inspire children to care about animal rights and conservation, without involving them in cruelty. It is only by teaching kids to regard non-human animals as sentient beings with as much right to life and liberty as ourselves, that we can create a generation who will truly speak out on their behalf, and do whatever they can to protect them.

Need some ideas? Check out these amazing articles:

Lead image source: Huffington Post

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5 comments on “Does Keeping Animals Captive Really Help Kids Learn How to Respect Them?”

Click to add comment
Sarah Ward
5 Months Ago

"How do I know? I’ve reviewed the literature"

Please provide a list of the literature you claim to "have reviewed".

Roma Paulauskaite
1 Years Ago

Lina Senetaite idomu

Lina Senetaite
23 Nov 2016

Oj, tokius tai reik uzdaryt.... Gyvunu kankinimas tik

Bertha Burdine
1 Years Ago

Of course the zoo's are going to try and justify having animal's caged up. It sure isn't to teach children. It's for the MONEY they get from every person who comes in and every person who pays are contributing to the suffering of those innocent animal's. No living creature (human or animal was meant to be caged up). People are caged because they were bad. What have these animals done bad, nothing? Animal's survived for millions and millions of years without human help. If humans would stop destroying their homes, they would have one. It's all nothing but humans trying to make a profit off of a living soul who never did anything wrong. I hate the way this world is. I hate what the human race has become.

Samantha Young
1 Years Ago

is this a serious question ...

Louise Cara
1 Years Ago

It teaches them that Cages Animals are Acceptable.

Valerie Leppard
1 Years Ago

Animals in protective custody. Disabled people in protective custody, displayed to the public for money to pay for their food. See what I did there? That, right there, is what is wrong with zoos.

Ray France
1 Years Ago

Should never do it

Monique Le Roux
1 Years Ago

No. Zoos teach kids how to dominate, capture and imprison animals. There's an abundance of documentaties etc on the web that can be used for education purposes. International funds should be invested cooperatively into game parks and reserves with anti-poacher teams where the animals are in their natural environment. We hunt etc animals to near extinction and use that very fact as justification to steal their freedom - how very noble of us. 'Well elephant, we've uprooted you from Africa, shipped you thousands of kms to New Zealand, where you will spend the rest of your life...sometimes alone, maybe with another imported elephant for company. Of course you will be fed, watered and sheltered. We are doing this for the good of your species..and because we want to study you and gawk at you... You do realise that you are endangered and we are helping you..so all's good right?"

Susan Keys
1 Years Ago

no They deserve freedom. That's what children should learn .

Carol Fisher
1 Years Ago

As a proud Grandpa and Nanny to 9 grandchildren (and angel number ten due in May) we live our lives reflecting the respect, care and love that all animals deserve. Our chickens are hand raised by the grandchildren and they learn very early the reciprocal relationship with animals. The chickens are feed and kept safe in a warm clean coop and in return they provide us with eggs for breakfast. Osho the rescued Maltese is treated gently because others were not so kind to him in the past and if you are gentile Mali the little chihuahua will give hugs. Gertie and Sparkles the Pygmy goats love to be fed treats. Always respecting the animals and treating them with kindness. There will always be those who will profit from animal suffering....it is our responsibility to teach the children so that they will find a way that all animals and humans can someday live in harmony.


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