If you’re like me, your parents took you to zoos and aquariums when you were a kid and you absolutely loved it! We grow up with the idea that zoos are “normal” and forget that animals don’t WANT to live in captivity and be stared at by (admittedly well-meaning) children.
Luckily, there are many ways we can still enjoy animals without putting them behind bars.
DON’T: The Zoo
Zoos are prisons where animals are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them. In zoos, animals are treated like commodities to be bought, sold, and traded. Captivity leads to physical and mental frustration, and many captive animals display neurotic and even self-destructive behavior. At the end of the day, captivity is no place for wild animals.
There are many sanctuaries that take in animals who were headed to the slaughterhouse or were victims of emergency situations. They may not be lions, tigers, or bears, but these fascinating animals have remarkable stories and love being visited. Many sanctuaries give tours, and you can get close and cuddly with adorable creatures rescued from nail-biting situations. Just make sure your sanctuary is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) before deciding to support it.
I took a wonderful hour-long tour of a sanctuary and was able to hold a chicken and cuddle a HUGE piggy!
DON’T: Aquariums and Marine Parks (Like SeaWorld!)
Orcas and dolphins swim up to 100 miles a DAY in the open ocean. Confining them to tanks is like forcing a human to live in a bathtub for his or her whole life. Marine animals are stolen from their homes and placed in parks or aquariums, and many more are bred into a life of captivity. These intelligent, social beings were not put on Earth to entertain us. If you love dolphins, whales, and other sea creatures, do not support industries that abuse them.
DO: Grab Some Binoculars
Watch animals from a safe distance, such as standing on a beach or from a scenic lookout point. It’s so much more rewarding to watch sea life and other wild animals living their lives as they wish.
DON’T: The Rodeo
In rodeos, “bucking broncos” and steers are forced into aggression with electric prods, sharp sticks, and painful “bucking straps” that pinch their skin. Fragile calves are chased and roped for fun; some even have grown men leap on them and wrestle them to the ground! Terrorizing animals should never be considered entertainment.
A wonderful way to get close to animals like horses and bulls is to volunteer at rescues. There are many horse rescues all over the country that are desperate for help. Horses are large and expensive to care for, and many are taken from horrible situations in which their owners were unable or unwilling to care for them properly. These beautiful animals need love and patience in order to be rehabilitated. What could be better than saving lives and spending time with horses?
Need more reasons to volunteer? This pretty girl is being serenaded with a violin. Horses are so cool!
Remember: Animals have families, lives, and desires, just as we do. We don’t want to be locked up in tiny enclosures and exploited for entertainment, and neither do they.
Looking for more ways to help animals? Join peta2!