The negative effects captivation has on animals

Raven Barton, Editor in Chief

Many animals that spend their lives restrained in captivity suffer physically and mentally, as their complex social, behavioral and physical needs cannot be met. Zoos do not save species from extinction. Instead, they divert much-needed attention away from important conservation work in the wild.   

The sole purpose of zoos and many facilities that hold animals is not to educate children and adults, but to entertain them. Many people take their children to zoos thinking they will be educating their children, but in reality the children pay no attention to the information, not realizing that the animals are suffering from not being in their natural habitat. While there are informational signs outside of each enclosure, most viewers fail to see and read them.

These exhibits fail to create a natural habitat for these animals which results in weak mental stability and physical health problems. In captivity, many of the animals face a number of challenges; the climate, diet and the size and characteristics of the enclosure may be completely alien to the species as it exists in the wild.

These factors cause a deterioration in both physical and mental health such as the development of abnormal behaviour, disease and even early mortality. When in captivity, an animal will start to demonstrate repetitive behaviours such as pacing, swaying, head-bobbing and bar-biting clearly caused by the frustration of natural behaviour patterns and impaired brain function.

Another form of animals in captivity are circuses. Animals used in circuses are forced under threat of punishment to perform confusing, uncomfortable, repetitious and often painful acts. If more people knew about the cruel methods used to train the animals as well as the cramped confinement, travel conditions and poor treatment that they endure, circuses would lose their appeal.

Animals access to basic necessities such as food, water and veterinary care is often inadequate. The animals, which are large and naturally active, are forced to spend their lives in the cramped cages and trailers used to transport them, where they only have enough room to stand and turn around. Most animals are allowed out of their cages only during the short periods when they must perform.

In 2015, the Ringling Bros announced that they would discard elephant acts and retire the animals after they were caught by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) repeatedly abusing the elephants with bullhooks. However, in 2017, there was a dramatic drop in ticket sales, resulting in the owner announcing that the circus would shut down for good.

Well-run animal sanctuaries can provide a solution to the problems associated with the captive animal industry, allowing animals in need of rescue to be cared for. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) was formed in 2007 by globally recognized leaders in the animal protection field with the purpose of strengthening and supporting the work of animal sanctuaries worldwide. GFAS does not operate animal sanctuaries, but does financially support and enhance awareness of them.

The GFAS goal in working with and assisting sanctuaries is to ensure that sanctuaries are supported, honored, recognized and rewarded for meeting important criteria in providing care to the animals in residence. With more sanctuaries worldwide, wild animals might have a better chance at life.