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Are zoo animals happy? There’s a simple empathy test we can apply

Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce: ‘According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums there are more than 10,000 zoos around the world… where more than ten thousand different species are held… In zoos, welfarism and welfare science are hard at work. As with animal welfare on factory farms and in laboratories, science casts its sheen over our interactions with animals in zoos… As in other realms, the welfarist paradigm controls the dialogue about animals. It focuses public and scientific attention on what we can do better for animals within the current paradigm. But it never pushes the questioning beyond the doors of the animals’ cages…

Zoo workers justify the keeping of animals in captivity by appealing to the welfarist paradigm, saying that animals in captivity are safe and comfortable and better off, in some respects, than they would be in the wild. Yet as ethicist Koen Margodt puts it, zoos are essentially “welfare arks” in which animals are collected, purportedly to save them from extinction, but where human interests are put before the interests of individual animals… In some respects, zooed animals are like farmed animals, because every aspect of their lives is managed by their human keepers. In welfarist lingo, this is “zoo animal management.” Indeed, running a successful zoo is much like running a successful business, balancing the costs of procuring and managing inventory against the profits from sales…

Just as welfare of food animals is measured in productivity (number of eggs, liters of milk, quantity of muscle), so too is the welfare of zoo animals often measured not by how happy they are, but by how well they are serving the needs of zoo administrators and the public and how well they are generating money… The basic welfare problem of zoos, and the violation that causes the most misery, is the loss of the big F, Freedom. Attempts to provide bits and pieces of the Five Freedoms are of no consolation to an animal who has lost his most cherished possession. SOURCE…

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