Hostage Animals: The Reasons Behind Keeping Animals in Captivity

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About this sample


Words: 1544 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Apr 8, 2022

Words: 1544|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Apr 8, 2022

Zoos have been a common attraction for hundreds of years. People like to see things that they don’t get to experience every day. It is convenient to go to a single location and witness the true beauty of wildlife without ever being in danger or out of your comfort zone. However, with the modern age of technology, zoos are getting bigger. Bigger zoos mean more animals and not always more space. The animals that primarily reside in zoos are exotic creatures that come from all over the world and are equipped to handle vastly different climates. When they are put in zoos, they all have to deal with the same small spaces and the same climate. Putting animals in zoos is the equivalent of locking a human being inside a 25 square foot room with limited climate control, a toilet, limited space to bathe properly, and inadequate provided meals. In other words, a zoo for an animal is basically prison for a human. Zoo corporations are holding animals’ hostage and pretending that everything is okay, when really a great injustice is being done.

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Most people can agree that animals have rights. Normal individuals do not torture animals for fun and they do not treat them cruelly. There are now laws that protect wild life and domestic animals from those who wish to harm them. However, that is where the law ends. Most do not see the issue in going to petting zoos or big institutional zoos like the Detroit Zoo. Why? Why do people agree that it is wrong to torture and hurt an animal, but they do not see an issue with keeping an animal locked up in a cage or enclosure? Many believe that there are positive outcomes to zoos. For example, zoos can be used for conservation. If a species is endangered due to poaching, lack of natural resources, or slow reproduction rates, some animals are taken into captivity in order to preserve the species (Bostock, 2003). Nevertheless, where do we draw the line?

Human beings have an obligation to animals. The conservation of a species is important, yes. However, it is important to not take conservation to far. Keeping animals in captivity essentially takes away it’s whole reason for existing. The animal is no longer in its natural habitat and it has no control over its movements. Zoos take away their freedom to run great distances in order to hunt for their food. Their mating pool is severely restricted, and they no longer have the power that they once had in the wild. These creatures are autonomous in their own right. Animals may not be able to communicate the same was people do, but they have their own language and their own way of living that is natural to them. To keep them in captivity is to take away their liberty. Even if the autonomy and rationality of animals is questioned, humans can still be judged on their own treatment of wildlife and domestic animals. Dale Jameson wrote in his article “Against Zoos” that “…someone who, for no good reason, removes wild animals from their natural habitats and denies them liberty is someone whose heart deserves to be judged harshly” (Jameson).

Another reason why people argue that zoos are important is for entertainment. Now that doesn’t sound to terrible on its own does it? However, when thought through rationally, it is cruel to even think about. The fact that wild animals exist in zoos only so that the zoo owner can make money and provide an eventful afternoon to bored citizens is repulsing. Some also argue that animals are not sentient and therefore, they have no rights or moral status. Yet, animals are sentient. To be a sentient being is to be able to experience a positive and negative awareness (Wilson). Scott D. Wilson wrote in his article “Animals and Ethics” that animals have a direct moral status for three reasons. Reason one: A sentient organism has a moral status. Reason two: animals are sentient. Reason three: Because organisms are sentient and have a moral status, and since animals are sentient, that means animals have a moral status.

There are a number of different animal rights supporters. Animal rightists are those who have the most radical views for animal rights. They believe that animals have a right to life, a right to liberty, the right to not be used as food, the right not to be put in cages or pens, the right to a clean habitat, the right not to be used in research, along with the same rights given to humans (Beauchamp, 2011). Zoos infringe on nearly all of these rights. To begin, their habitats cannot be clean at all times. How are the zoo keepers supposed to clean the enclosures when there are still wild animals inside? To try to do so would be putting those individuals in mortal danger. So, when the enclosures need to be cleaned the animals are put in pens. It is unethical to put a wild animal, large or small, into a pen. But, it needs to be done in order for their “habitat” to be cleaned. By putting them in pens it infringes on their right to not be enclosed. Really it is a lose-lose situation. Do the keepers keep the enclosures dirty so they aren’t locked into a small space, or do they lock them into a small space so that they can have a clean environment? There is no morally correct answer here. So why do it at all? Why keep these beautiful creatures contained in the first place.

Another way people justify the existence of zoos is to study animal behavior. Zoos do provide a great way to monitor animals 24/7. Their mating habits can be monitored, as well as their feeding habits, and their limited social circles. However, is this information really genuine? Since their environment is carefully constructed, their food is hand selected by keepers, and their mating habits are practically forced upon them, can this info really be scientifically accurate? Animals in the wild hunt their own food, in their own environment. They may migrate from place to place in search of food and water. As a result, their diet and surroundings could be changing all the time, whereas at a zoo everything is the same. Sure, a zoo keeper might select a different meat, vegetable, or fruit to give to the animals but it isn’t the same is it. Furthermore, their mating habits aren’t natural in a zoo because there is a limited selection for these animals to pick from. In the wild they can do whatever they want whenever they want. The social circles are more genuine in the wild as well. The hierarchy can be picked and respected while in the zoo it is not quite the case. Animals in captivity are also prone to health issues. Many times, when an animal is brought to a new enclosure, they physically hurt themselves (Wickens-Drazilova, 2006). Along with physical health, due to the density of the population, diseases and infections are more likely to spread faster. All of these factors eliminate the need to keep animals in captivity in order to study them.

The only time it is acceptable to keep in animal in captivity is if it is in danger out in the wild due to extenuating circumstances or at risk of going extinct. These circumstances could be in the form of rescuing an animal. Sometimes wild animals are gravely injured and as a result, will not be able to survive on their own in the wild. Other times, people take in these animals as pets and consequently, the animal does not know how to survive naturally in the wild. At that point it is acceptable to put the animal in a type of wildlife conservation program or a zoo. Every animal has a right to life and sometimes that includes living the best life possible according to that organism’s current situation or disability. When humans are injured or disabled, they are given special rights and amenities so that they can survive and live a productive life. Animals should not be any different.

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Animals are not meant to be kept hostage. They are meant to live naturally where they belong. This includes in their natural habitats unimpeded by humans and modern-day society. Zoos threaten the liberty, life, and freedom of wild animals. People are beginning to think it is okay for them to attempt domesticating wild animals and children are growing up thinking zoos are natural and healthy for the animals. Conservation, entertainment, science, and education are not sufficient reasons for keeping animals locked all of their lives. By doing so it is jeopardizing the animals physical well being and well as their emotional well-being. They have a moral status and as a result, we as humans, have a moral obligation to protect them.


  1. Bauchamp, T. L. (2011, October). Rights Theory and Animal Rights. Retrieves April 8, 2019, from
  2. Bostock, S. S. (2003). Zoos and Animal Rights. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 13, (1), 114-116. doi:10.4324/9780203408810
  3. Jameson, D. (n.d.). Against Zoos. Retrieves April 7, 2019, from
  4. Wickens-Drazilova, D. (2006). Zoo Animal Welfare. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 19, 27-36. doi:10.1007/s10806-00504380-2
  5. Wilson, S. D. (n.d.). Animals and Ethics. Retrieved April 8, 2019, from
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Hostage Animals: The Reasons Behind Keeping Animals In Captivity. (2022, April 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“Hostage Animals: The Reasons Behind Keeping Animals In Captivity.” GradesFixer, 08 Apr. 2022,
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