In this episode, Kathryn Sussman talks with Dr. Andrew Fenton and Dr. Letitia Meynell, authors and associate professors of Philosophy at Dalhousie University in Halifax. We learn from them about the ethics behind animal captivity in zoos and the relationship that such institutions create between humans and other animal species. They also reflect upon the ethical ways of displaying animals, particularly exotic animals such as polar bears in zoos far from their natural habitat, and the justifications of doing that.

The experts unravel the differences between zoos and sanctuaries as depending on who the exhibits are built for – human visitors or the animals themselves. They also explain how zoo professionals and zoo associations are now starting to aim towards a transformation, focusing onto the animals’ well-being, giving them a life worth living where their basic needs are met.

“When we take a free-living animal or an animal that comes from a free-living ancestry, and we keep them in a zoo, we have to recognize as the baseline that captivity is wrong. We need to make efforts to change that captivity environment, so it’s the best possible thing that we can have for them, given that what we’ve done as a baseline is wrong.” – Dr. Andrew Fenton.

Kathryn and Gen follow up with a discussion about the lack of legislation in most countries, like Canada, where animals are considered as being objects under the law. This lack of rights and the inaccurate language used for decades in regards of animals, such as keeping them in so-called “collections” as if they were a stack of things, is what they think is stopping us from giving animals the care and personhood they deserve.

“We keep putting a distance between humans and animals. We seem to forget that humans are animals. The only difference between us and other animals is that we are the only animal that refuses to be an animal.” – Genevieve Douyon.

Our message of change: Tell your elected officials that animals are not things! Now you know!

Be part of the change!

  • Simply avoid going to zoos and visit sanctuaries instead
  • If you do visit a zoo, inquire about its certification and don’t go if it isn’t a recognized facility
  • Get information about the justifications of your local zoo to keep animals in captivity
  • Express your concern with zoos in regards to animals’ living environments and whether the conditions respond to the animals’ needs
  • Inquire with zoos where did the animals come from and express your disapproval, particularly in regards to exotic animals far from their natural climates or those that were captured in nature
  • If you do visit a zoo, respect animals’ privacy – admire them from a distance and don’t tap on their enclosure or yell at them for attention
  • Encourage children to use television or the internet to learn about animals, and see them in their natural habitats instead of going to the zoo
  • Create a movement of consciousness within your community about the lack of legislation regarding animals
  • Reach out to elect officials to change the legal status of animals and create new legislation for the rights of animals held in captivity
  • Contact organizations and take action in establishing viable solutions for the future of captive animals, such as sanctuaries that provide rehabilitation
  • Help us spread the word by sharing this podcast in your network

What’s next?

Join us in our aim to reach actor Alex Harrouch, and find out about his view on zoo animals on display and how to respect their privacy. Ask him to step up for the rights of animals in captivity by tagging him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with a link to this episode.

Learn more

Listen to the full interview Is Captivity Ethical? with professors Andrew Fenton and Letitia Meynell.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to our podcast, we’ve a favour to ask. A lot of volunteering goes into making Now You Know, but it still takes money to run. If you’d like to help us make future Now You Know podcasts, please consider donating. Thank you!

Kathryn, Gen and the Now You Know team.

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