“How many more animals are going to be shot dead for the crime of living a life in captivity with irresponsible humans at the helm? [Zoos are]…places where bored living beings are on display behind fences and cement walls, going back and forth along paths beaten down by their own incessant pacing.” – JoAnne McArthur, WeAnimals
A rare 17 year old gorilla named Harambe was shot dead at The Cincinnati Zoo this past weekend because a four-year old child fell into the exhibit.
This isn’t the first incident of a child falling into a zoo enclosure, and as long as zoos remain in business, it won’t be the last.
Not surprisingly, this absolute tragedy has sparked debate between zoo advocates and animal advocates about the archaic practice of keeping animals in captivity and on display.
One online petition called “Justice for Harambe” has garnered more than 415,000 signatures as of today.
Zoos are prison for animals
Despite their commonly cited benefits, zoos are no home sweet home for the animals.
Even at their best, zoos can never replicate or replace animals’ chosen and natural habitats. Animals are either taken from their home or born into captivity, where they are prevented from doing things that are natural to them, like running, roaming, flying, climbing, foraging, choosing a mate, raising a family, and being with others of their own species.
A zoo is a business where babies draw crowds, and adult animals are routinely traded, loaned, or sold. The disposal of older (“surplus”) animals is a not-so-well-kept secret (and sometimes illegal) industry practice. Animals end can end up at auction, on a hunting ranch, in research laboratories, or dying in a more depraved situation.
There are better ways to introduce children to animals.
A child and a cow / Source
Visit an animal sanctuary
Animal sanctuaries are veganism’s greatest advocates and the perfect alternative to visiting a zoo. They are a physical space that allows people to “connect with animals” in a way that a zoo cannot replace. Visitors can interact with animals in a peaceful and natural setting, allowing a greater understanding of their lives as individuals.
Find an Animal Sanctuary near you.
Lesser Marsh grasshopper / Source
Observe wildlife habitats and learn about local plants, trees, and animals
One of the easiest ways to teach children about animals is to simply walk outside. There is abundant animal life right outside our back doors. Learn about all the different species of animals where you live.
A father & child hiking / Source
Visit local parks and hiking trails
Grab a pair of binoculars and head to the park or trail. Look for different types of animals in the area- make a game out of counting numbers of animals spotted. Learning more about the local animal life not only teaches children about the lives of animals but also how to coexist with them.
Cover for the TV series Planet Earth / Source
Watch educational documentaries
Programs such as Planet Earth have stunning visuals and excellent commentary for learning and entertainment. Visit the Vegan Movie Library and the Vegan Netflix Guide to find more movies and TV shows with a compassionate message to help teach children kindness.
A child volunteering at a cat shelter / Source
Walk dogs or care for other animals at a local shelter
This is hands-on experience with animals who desperately need the TLC, plus children will learn how to give comfort (be kind) to animals.
Children at the library / Source
Read and share books with children
There are lots of books to help explain an ethical worldview in a way that children will understand and enjoy. Browse below or visit the Vegan Book Library for the full collection of vegan children’s books.
Learn more about zoos
Learn how zoos are prisons for animals by visiting this in-depth guide on veganism and zoos.