Zoos Essay

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Zoos have been with us throughout our history, and can provide a good barometer of public beliefs and values at any given time. Therefore it seems necessary to explore whether in today’s society contemporary zoos are a means of educating and conserving or still seek to control and exhibit animal others for human benefit. In order to make this assessment there are a number of contributing factors. Firstly it is important to establish context by considering the history of zoos and looking at the changes from the early menageries to contemporary zoos who strive to be institutions of refuge for animals facing twenty-first century global challenges. This links into how the physical space of zoos has changed over time and whether these advancements have made any crucial difference to the welfare of animals. Following this conservation, education and scientific research will be explored in detail in order to assess whether they provide good enough motives for keeping animals in captivity. I will seek to argue that although attempts have been made to point zoos in the direction of conservation and education, in my opinion the concepts of dominance and human superiority are still at the core of modern zoos. The history of change regarding the varying displays of animals has been gradual yet profound. A clear shift has been evident surrounding the role and nature of a zoo’s position within society. When assessing zoological history it seems that there are three distinct phases. From the early collections where animals were kept and used for religion, hunting and entertainment to the private menageries in which wild animals were contained as a sign of wealth, dominance and privilege and more recently the development of zoos as modern ins... ... middle of paper ... ...es to places to display animals for curiosity and education, to parks where animals can be seen in their more natural habitats. The perception around enclosures and cages in general is often criticised, with Bartay and Hardouin believing that “every aspect of humanity’s relationship with nature can be perceived through the bars of the zoological garden: repulsion and fascination; the impulse to appropriate, master and understand… linked to vast parallel histories of colonization, ethnocentrism and the discovery of the other… to tour the cages of the zoo is to understand the society that erected them.” (Bishop, 2004: 107). This suggests regardless of an enclosure’s size, nature or specification it is a direct indication of humanity’s desire to control and exhibit animal others. Malamud agrees with this view, arguing that all practises of animal containment “convince

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