Sample Research Paper On A Double-Edged Sword In A World Of Necessary Evils:

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Animals, World, Zoo, Environment, Species, Conservation, Education, Nature

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/17

Discussing the Pros and Cons of Modern Zoos

Almost everyone can remember visiting a zoo, of one kind or another, either with family, friends or school field trip. People recall the excitement of seeing how big elephants and giraffe really are in person, seeing an African lion and hearing it roar in your presence and being, nearly, face to face with a gorilla looking into its eyes. This is a unique experience that would ever have been possible any other way; it is the only real opportunity most people have to see exotic animals from all across the globe. However, not everyone perceives zoos, of any kind, as any form of justifiable education, but inadvertent entertainment, that is at its core rather cruel lesson in captivity and much psychological and behavioral damage upon the animals that call the zoo home. The sides of this issue offer very significant and valid arguments for and against the very existence of zoos in the modern world. Those who support zoos feel that zoo organizations provide a great deal more than entertainment and juvenile educations. The opposing the perspective feel that zoos do not maintain standards and are little better than prisons that force domestic and exotic species of animals into captivity and made a spectacle ; and sometimes under cruel, abusive and unhealthy conditions (Nakate 1). However, the reality of this issue is that, both sides have their merit and raise relevant and worthwhile ethical, social and public discussion. Zoos are a double-edged sword in a world of necessary evils. In other words, zoos may not be the ideal solution for teaching, gathering support for and not necessarily, the ideal environments for all of the animals living in captivity. As yet, no zoos alternatives have been fully implemented. For the time being, zoos ever have been one of the few options in the realm of conservation, preservation, education and interaction with wild and, often; exotic animals. The ultimate solution to the zoological conundrum will, likely, as with many medium issues, be found through compromise; one that meets the needs of both sides of the argument and acts, as well.


The practice of capturing, caging and displaying wild animals is not a product of the modern world. In fact, the practice dates back to the Ancient World. In its earliest origins the noble, the powerful, the wealthy and the elite would purchase and display animals from all across the world as a sign of their greatness. These displays were called menageries and have been incredibly popular over the millennia. In 1793, the first official zoo was established, the participants of the French Revolution, the people commandeered the properties, including the menageries of the French aristocracy, and relocated the animals to a singular location, open to the public (National Geographic 1). With the growth and innovations of science throughout the years, the understanding of biology and psychology of animals led to seeing animals in a different ways. Today, there are three different types of zoos most common in the United States and other parts of the world.
Petting Zoos: This is one of the smallest versions of a zoo. Petting zoos involve the confining of domesticated and livestock animals, like goats, sheep, chickens, and, occasionally, ponies or miniature horses. The idea is that children for education or fun can have a hands-on experience with animals, feed them, touch, and interact with them. Such zoos are privately owned and mobile in nature, more often than not, and either set up at fairgrounds or private parties. (National Geographic 1).
Traditional Zoological Parks: This is the type of zoo that most everyone is most familiar with, like the Los Angeles Zoo. They are like amusement parks with cages and fenced habitats. You pay an entrance fee and can spend all day traveling from species to species and paddock to paddock. One can read plaques set up before the enclosures explain the species, natural origins and overall summary of behaviors. These parks are usually staffed by knowledgeable, educated zoological staff and specialists. Many zoos across the country take in displaced animals; participate in breeding conservation programs and work to share the message of being environmentally conscientious. (National Geographic 1).
Wildlife and Safari Parks: These types of zoos do not resemble traditional zoos. Wildlife and Safari parks provide huge landscapes made to resemble and reflect the given animals environment. Here the animals move with a greater degree of freedom with far less restrictions. Visitors can ride in cars and look out the window and be side-by side with a lions, elephants and giraffe. Under the umbrella of wildlife parks are game preserves. While these are not formal parks that charge for visiting; game reserves protect hunted animals from unnecessary hunting and prevent the over-killing of species and potentially contributing to their avoidance of extinction. The animals live wild, but are not allowed to be hunted (National Geographic 1).
Over the decades two different perspectives have emerged regarding the nature, quality and scientific and education practicality of zoo environments. Some love the opportunity and visual education that visiting a zoo can offer to learners, young and old. People, especially, those born and raised in big cities, may have never seen a cow in person, let alone lions, tigers and bears. Many of these people feel that as long as the zoos are providing for the care for the animals that reside there, are not abusive or neglectful to them and are dedicated to education, special interests, conservation and preservation. They are a benefit to the world. However, the opposition to that perspective is equally as convicted to their position. They feel that zoos are cruel, isolating environments, that does not meet the needs of the animals living there and sometimes are, in fact, quite knowingly negligent and the animals suffer for it; emotionally, psychologically and developmentally. They feel that zoos are like prisons and the captors make money of the animals that are being mistreated behind the scene for the public’s entertainment (Nakate 1).That said the two sides levy many relevant arguments and remain firmly convicted to their position, which means that the debate regarding the pros and cons, benefits and risks, and right and wrongs of zoos will remain a heavily and heated debate topic for some time.


The arguments for and against zoos in modern society have been argued for several generations. Again, they all have some merit and failings, but remains a legitimate topic deserving of extended ethical, moral and social questions revolving around zoos in the United States and all over the world.

Arguments in Support of Zoos in the 21st Century

Those that support the past, present and future of traditional zoo environments do so with the complete belief that zoo and zoological studies have and continued to be significant contributors to education, presented ecological concepts, encourage public awareness and action, and, finally, conservation and preservation. These things are beneficial and contribute to how people, young and old, perceive all wildlife, both exotic and domestic animals (Moss, Jensen and Gussset 1).


The supporters offer that zoos are like living museums. Instead of just reading about an animal, learners can be exposed to these creatures, at a safe distance under confined conditions. Children can associate the animals with more than just a picture, but a real, living and breathing example of nature. This can be indispensible for encouraging environmental awareness and respect for all of the animals that call the world their home (Nakate 1).

Ecological Perspectives:

The zoological parks have always worked to share the message of the need for society to care for the environment and teach how to diminish our negative contributions and particular in charities and endeavors. Today when so many natural environments are being devastated or completely destroyed continues to diminish the natural habitats of many animal species. In that vein, if it were not for zoos, many species would face complete and total annihilation; extinction (Andrews 1).

Conservation & Preservation:

First and foremost, it is important to clarify the differences between conservation and preservation; the two go hand-in-hand, but are not the same thing. Preservation involves collecting of a thing and placing in an environment where you can control its survival. Conservation is an intentional and active effort to effect an environment to benefit future preservation. That said preservation leads to conservation, but conservation must be an on-going effort. Zoos obviously preserve the lives of animals that may be heavily hunted, nearing extinction or are in no position to be returned to a wild environment. Modern zoos, also, claim that their parks also support, fund and work to benefit many differing conservation projects and dedicated organizations (Nakate 1). Zoos definitely participate when it come to breeding programs that work to increase the numbers of species that are dwindling (Andrews 1).

Arguments against Zoos in the 21st Century

The opposition to zoos is a fairly modern movement. Over the years, via modern media, and presently internet technologies, the public became aware of the darker side of zoos and exotic animal parks all over the world (PETA 1).They saw instances of animal neglect and maltreatment. While people were seeing animals paraded in cages, behind the scenes they were abused and live in less than ideal conditions. Modern animal rights supporters consider zoos to be a violation of basic rights of individual and personal freedoms. They counter the arguments supporting zoos on a number of major points. They claim that they are not that contributory to educating children or the mass public, they are not invested in ecological endeavors and, finally, they are not as involved or as successful in their efforts?


Many of those in the opposition argue that while there are educational materials available via zoological parks, however, they are far more about entertainment than education. They argue that caging these animals to be put on display to lure the paying public is the primary motivator of any zoological park (Nelson 1). They feel that the only lessons being learned in complacency to imaging that animals belong behind bars rather than in the wild. As far the animals are concerned, there are many who argue that if the animals are born in captivity or react negatively to being under constant scrutiny they will not behave the same as their wild counterparts. Therefore they argue there is not much to be learned from animals like this in captivity (Beckoff 1).

Ecological Perspectives:

Opposition to zoos argues that while zoos do support and endorse all sorts of environmentally beneficial endeavors, efforts and organizations. They are some of strongest advocates for wildlife and ecosystem protection. However, this has little to do with whether or not there are animals on display or not; especially in this modern era where there are other ways to teach children about animals. Additionally, if their contributions were so pivotal, then why has the salvation of endangered species not improved substantially? Zoos have been around for decades and species that cannot be saved in the wild can be relocated and bred in captivity, of which, adds these animals to monetarily valuable commodity to sell (Nakate1).

Conservation & Preservation:

Opposition feels that regardless of efforts towards preservation there is also an air propagation and capitalism, in the United States and all across the globe. There are many animals on the endangered species lists that are need of attention and salvation, however, most of them are not housed in most zoos because they are not the most desirable or popular animals, like elephants and orangutans. For example China “rents” pandas to zoos all around the world at a price of a million dollars, yet there is never any direct proof that any of these monies are then directed to conservational or "preservational" actions (PETA 1). More so, the opposition offers that because the animals will not develop the same in captivity as they would in the wild, these animals are being psychologically and developmentally damaged, which also does benefit the preservation or conservation that zoos often pride themselves on participating in (Birkett, Nicholas and Fisher 1).
The truth is that both sides of the issue make heartfelt, genuine and valid arguments in favor for and against the institution of traditional zoos in modern society. This why the issue is something of a double-edged sword; it is not a perfect solution. But, as with many things, especially in this modern world, we make not ideal compromises and call them necessary evils. No one, on either side of the argument, wants to see animals residing in environments where they are malnourished, neglected, mistreated, abused or, even, killed due to ignorance and cruelty. (Viegas 1). No one wants to cage animals and cause them psychological, emotional and physical damage and remove them forever more from their natural environments. However, what of the animals that have nowhere left to go? What of the animals that are disappearing yearly, with little, or no hope, to replenish their species without human intervention and that required breeding programs, sequestering to guarantee success, and protective lands and procedures that can provide real, tangible improvements. Zoos have and remain an essential part of that equation. They, also, argue, despite naysayers, that studies conducted have verified that visits to zoos and, there sibling, aquatic parks, focusing on sea life and cetaceans, like whales, do make a statistical contribution in educating and raising awareness of the plight of endangered or, nearly, endangered animals and threatened ecosystem. For example visitors surveyed have shown that there were 5% to 7% increases in biodiversity and ecological awareness in comparison to when the same groups began after touring, reading and listening to the information available (Moss, Jensen, and Gussset 1).
At present many suggested alternatives have been considered, which includes altering the way such parks are designed and improving how all animals are cared for; however, as yet, many of the option have not been implemented due to lack of funding and resources (Nakate 1).The argument and debate is likely to consider because, we cannot close all of the zoos and free the animals and we cannot just continue to allow animals to be hunted, poached, butchered and driven to extinction without intervening. Again, the double-edged sword. However, it would appear that science and technology will allow for innovations that would change the paradigm and approach natural, scientific, zoological studies for all time. The zoos of the future will become something very different. Many that may be acceptable to all sides include robotic or animatronic animal surrogates or the implementation of genetic engineering measures that would eliminate the need for animals from the wild. There are technological interventions that would allow people to experience a safari through virtual reality. There are suggestions of using drone technology to “spy “on animals within natural environments as a means of more accurate and noninvasive study. Finally, there are considerations of literally cloning animals, those whose numbers are dwindling and even those that may have already been extinct for sometime (Andrews 1).Granted these options have yet to be fully implemented and some create issues of controversy and ethics, as well.
If, however, these measure do become a valid option then the future may prove that the traditional zoos will no longer be the most educational means, logical approach, and practical option to teach, inform and motivate the saving of species and environment. That said zoos would likely no longer be cost effective industry and the existing animals relocated to “preserved locales” and zoos will close (Andrews 1). This would, ultimately, end the argument over whether or not zoos are an ethical and justifiable practice, especially when there are legitimate alternatives available. Unfortunately, while these options remain on the horizon, as yet, they are not being practiced. Until then it would be counterproductive to eliminate whatever influence, great or small, that zoos have on education, environmental awareness, preservation and conservation they provide is far less destructive than to remove zoos all together (Nakate 1). This outweighs that fact that zoos may not be the most ideal environment for the animals or for the people who experience them.
In the future our ability to understand the natural world and how human beings fit into the grand scheme of things may increase, evolve and change. As we learn more we may be able to discover more effective and beneficial means of conserving land and resources, which could improve the natural habitats where animals can maintain their existence is safe but all natural environments (PETA 1). Zoos are not perfect and they do force animals into confinement antithetical to the wild realm that the given species hails from, but for so long it is one of the few avenues to introduce to the animals species of the world and encourage society to improve environments, to conserve natural resources and become invested in animals safety and welfare, both at the individual level and at the species level. Realistically, both side will be required to find amiable and acceptable compromise if they ever hope to see eye-to-eye.


Ultimately, zoos have existed for more than two-hundred years. In fairness, they have introduced children to animals they might never see in person and no doubt inspired some to become involved in zoology as their future career. They have brought the public closer to the animals from lands far and wide that are threatened, garnering greater support for these causes. Zoos have participated in breeding programs that work to prevent animal species all across the globe from going completely extinct. At the same time, animals living in captive zoo environment are due respect and consideration. They are not here simply to entertain or even educate, they are living beings whose needs must be met. No animals, domestic, exotic or rare, deserve to be mistreated and live in unhealthy and deplorable conditions. That said, until alternative to institutional and wildlife parks have been innovated and implemented, then zoos will still exist; however, they should be monitored and held to the highest of standards and make appropriate reforms if necessary. In the end, there are two sides to this argument, the double-edged sword, will continue to argue, however, given the well-being of so many lives at stake, they are worthwhile arguments to have, debate, and seek positive resolution for.


Andrews, Crispin. "Zoos of the Future." Institution of Engineering and Technology. 8.7 (2013): 1. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.
Beckoff, Marc. "Zoos and Aquariums Do Not Accomplish What They Claim They Do." Psychology Today. Animal Emotions, 13 Apr 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.
Birkett, L.P., E Nicholas, and N. Fisher. "How Abnormal Is the Behaviour of Captive, Zoo-Living Chimpanzees?." PLOS One. (2011): 1. Print.
Moss, A., E. Jensen, and M. Gussset. "Evaluating the Contribution of Zoos and Aquariums to Aichi Biodiversity Target 1." Conservation Biology. 22. (2914): 1. Print.
Nakate, shashank. "Pros and Cons of Zoos." Buzzle. 18 May 2913: 1. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.
Nelson, Emily Rose. "The Zoo Debate: Educators or Entertainers?." R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program: University of Miami. (2014): 1. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.
Viegas, Jennifer. "The Worst Zoo in the World Keeps Going Downhill." Discovery Magazine. 14 Feb 2014: 1. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.
National Geographic Magazine, . "Zoological Parks." National Geographic Magazine. 2015: 1. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.
PETA. "Zoos: Pitiful Prisons." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). 2015: 1. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.

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