Sunday, February 15, 2015

Animal Captivity: Profit Over Morality

Eric Wyant
Animal Captivity: Profit Over Morality
Animal captivity has long been a controversial issue throughout the world. Animal advocates and many others believe that it is inhumane to place wildlife creatures and animals in a controlled environment.  Those who are pro wildlife captivity make the argument that doing so gives animals immediate access to veterinarians, a healthy diet, and removes the risk of injury from other predators. Still, the hardest thing to measure is the psychological damage that these animals suffer due to being removed from their natural habitat. Removing wildlife creatures from their natural habitat places immeasurable amounts of stress onto animals, which in turn negatively affects their overall health.
Naomi Rose, a Mammalogist and member of the Humane Society of the United States of America, made her stance against animal captivity clear in an interview from FRONTLINE. Rose focused on the captivity of killer whales and dolphins that the environment we place them in is actually more harmful than beneficial. Whales in the wild travel 50 to 100 miles per day in large groups but are forced to roam in a small concrete tank instead (Rose, par. 2). Psychologically, this makes a large impact. In actuality, the mortality rate of killer whales in captivity is 3 times higher in comparison to whales in the wild (Rose, par. 7). The point is very clear, Rose and fellow Mammalogists believe that captivity shortens the lifespan of killer whales. Rose makes the argument that there is a positive correlation between shortened life spans and the captivity of killer whales which could certainly be due to a continuous amount of stress placed onto the animal. Rose presents a solid and persuasive argument. The captivity of animals, especially killer whales, has been a very controversial issue.  Humans are extremely emotionally attached to animals. In fact, according to the Humane Society of the United States, 62% of American households have at least one pet. Thus, it is not surprising that Rose’s argument emotionally appeals to her audience in such a great magnitude. On the other hand, Rose could have presented much more scientific data in order to augment the strength or her argument. Without scientific evidence of the psychological effects on killer whales and dolphins, the argument seemed to lose some validity.
In the same FRONTLINE interview, Ric O’Barry made his case against the captivity of wild dolphins.  During his interview, O’Barry reminds you how the animals actually got into the giant concrete tank. Yes, many zoos and animal theme parks do breed animals with highly experienced veterinarians on staff, but many times animals have to be forcibly removed from the wild. Capturing dolphins from the wild is can be described simply, “It's violent, it's kind of like rape” (O’Barry, par. 13). According to O’Barry, in order to capture the animals, you have to chase them until they are physically unable to go forward. At that point, you take the best and youngest dolphins and permanently separate them from their mothers. Like Rose, O’Barry uses emotion to appeal to the audience. His word play is a key constituent to his effectiveness. Comparing anything to rape automatically makes the reader think negatively about the subject. This automatic connection is due to our cultural and social ideologies regarding rape. In addition to the emotion displayed throughout his argument, he also backs it with sound logic. The argument is short and to the point without the presence of any jargon. Overall, the emotional appeal and logic behind O’Barry’s argument makes it extremely persuasive.
Aside from aquatic wildlife, animals that are held in zoos face similar disadvantages.  James Owen wrote an article for the National Geographic News illustrating the disadvantages animals have returning to the wild after periods of captivity. Large carnivores held in captivity have only a 33% chance of survival when returned to the wild (Owen, par. 2). Within the article, animal behavioral researcher Kristen Jule said that these animals have little to no chance to survive in the wild because their natural wildlife instincts are not up to par.  In reference to a study done regarding the mortalities of captive animals being introduced into the wild, “more than half of the fatalities were attributed to human causes, such as vehicle collisions and deliberate shootings” (Owen, par. 8). Basically, zoos and animal theme parks make animals accustomed to human interaction. When reintroduced to the wild, these animals bring the same accustoms with them that they acquired during captivity. Animal captivity overrides the natural instincts of wildlife, making it nearly impossible for an animal to enjoy the life naturally intended for them.  Owen’s work is extremely persuasive, mostly due to the emotional appeal. As mentioned earlier, humans have a deep connection with their own animals. Owen stating the chance of survival immediately makes the audience feel negatively towards captivity. Even if humans try to right their wrongs by introducing once captive animals into the wild, they are, statistically speaking, ensuring their death.
On the other hand, there are social, academic, and economic benefits of zoos and animal theme parks that hold wildlife animals in captivity. Most zoos, for example, charge a general admission price upon entrance and generate profits from the merchandize that is sold throughout the park. From a financial stand point, this boosts the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of our country and one could make the argument zoos also add jobs to the economy.  Socially, zoos serve as a useful tool to bring families and friends together for fun and entertainment. Academically, young children and adults alike learn about these animals from a first person point of view, which is much more interesting than reading or viewing these animals through sources of multimedia (Lin, par. 9). Still, a few tax dollars and a smile or two from a child is not worth the imprisonment of fellow species of planet earth.
Throughout history, we have seen that humans have potential to abuse the power given to them. Often, animals held in captivity have negative relationships or encounters with trainers, handlers, or even visitors.  An article titled Emaciated Asian Elephant Started Life at Busch Gardens from cited a specific case in which a former circus elephant was removed from his handler due to Animal Welfare Act violations (Lin, par. 1). The elephant, Ned, being born in Busch Gardens raises question. “Zoos, especially accredited zoos, argue that they play an important role in protecting endangered species. They operate breeding programs, and claim they offer a life free of the risks of habitat loss and predators. But the dark side to this story is that zoo breeding programs often create a surplus of animals who sometimes get sold to circuses or unaccredited zoos” (Lin, par. 2). Emphasizing the human name given to the elephant worked very well for Lin. By doing so, there is more sympathy attached to the elephant and his story, making it quite the persuasive argument.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tracks much of the ignorance and negligence that you can find in zoos and animal theme parks.  According to the PETA website, a bear in the Toledo Zoo starved to death because the zookeepers expected it to be hibernating and left it without food or water. Unfortunately, that specific species of bear does not hibernate, which was unknown to the zoo and respective staff. Needless to say, the potential of human flaw is not considered during animal captivity. Very often, animals suffer at the hands of their caretakers.
            Zoos across the world have witnessed the psychological damage of these captive animals. An article titled Rain-lashed penguins at Scarborough sanctuary given antidepressants by Kevin Rawlinson, a writer for The Guardian, describes the unhappiness of penguins in an environment completely different from where they were from. “Wild Humboldt penguins are used to withstanding inhospitable weather in the coastal areas of South America, but those living in captivity in Scarborough are struggling with the constant wind and rain lashing the country. Staff at the Sea Life Centre there have become so concerned they have started to administer the medication as a pick-me-up” (Rawlinson, par. 2 & 3).  PETA argues that this is not necessarily just because of the weather, rather a mixture of things associated with animal captivation.  Rather, PETA suggests that these penguins are unhappy based on the pure fact that they are constrained to an exhibit. Thanks to modern medicine, animals are now forced to put on a show for others. Society does not just demand caged exotic animals. Today, these animals must be energetic, do tricks, and satisfy the relentless demands of the power hungry human.
As more and more studies are done on the physical and psychological effects of the captivity of wildlife creatures, animal advocates are continuously pressing for an end. Studies suggest that there is a positive correlation between shorter life expectancies and captivity, which many believe to be due to the amounts of stress these animals face on a day to day basis. Psychologically, captive animals face serious mental issues. Often, these animals are uprooted from their natural habitat while they are very young and heavily dependent on their mothers. Physically, there are many cases of humans exercising ignorance, aggression, and negligence towards animals held in captivity. Doing so can permanently damage the animals and even kill them in some cases. Moral of the story, everything adds up. Although one day of captivity may not induce terrible effects onto animals, the everyday stress and abuse takes a toll on these animals. Zoos and animal theme parks do not need more rules or regulations; we need to rid this world of Zoos and animal theme parks.

Works Cited
"13 Times Zoos Were Bad for Animals." PETA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
Catalanello, Rebecca. "Emaciated Elephant Taken from Florida Owner." Tampa Bay Times. TB Times, 10 Nov. 2008. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.
Lin, Doris. "10 Arguments For and 13 Against Zoos." About. Animal Welfare, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.
Lin, Doris. "Emaciated Asian Elephant Started Life at Busch Gardens." About News. Animal Rights, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.
Owen, James. "Most Captive-Born Predators Die If Released." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 23 Jan. 2008. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.
"Pets by the Numbers." RSS. Humane Society of the United States, 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.
Rawlinson, Kevin. "Rain-lashed Penguins at Scarborough Sanctuary given Antidepressants." The Guardian. Animal Welfare, 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
Rose, Naoimi, and Ric O'Barry. "Anti-Captivity Views." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.