Jack Sullivan at Commonwealth Magazine’s excellent Daily Download asks:
But the bigger question is why do we keep animals in a manufactured habitat for visitors to gawk at? The question becomes even more central when, looking at depleted public funds, the money needed to care for and maintain the zoos is becoming tighter and tighter. In Massachusetts, the House offered a slight increase over last year’s budget for the operations of the Franklin Park and Stoneham zoos while the Senate looked to cut it by nearly 25 percent. It wasn’t that long ago that officials at Franklin Park said they may be forced to euthanize animals because of budget cuts.
Perhaps zoos should go the way of bear baiting and dog fighting, banned in the distant past, dog racing, banned in the recent past, cruel farm animal practices, which may be banned in Massachusetts after the next election, and animal experimentation, which is under ever-increasing scrutiny.
As entertainment, it is hard to justify zoos. They have educational value, but it comes at a cost. In an age of television and the Internet people can acquire a great deal of knowledge without direct observation. Refuges for endangered creatures is perhaps their strongest claim to utility, but few zoos actually provide that service.