The Role of Zoos in Conservation: Ethical Considerations Essay

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Rachel Stillman HONH242 11/27/12 The Role of Zoos in Conservation: Ethical Considerations As the animal rights movement has developed and grown substantially in recent years, there has been an increased focused on the welfare of captive animals. A popular institution that has received much attention for keeping animals captive is the zoo. Because of this focus, zoos have responded by publicizing their positive benefits for existence in order to justify keeping these animals on display. Since the term “zoo” can have a wide variety of meaning and characteristics, it is important to define what constitutes a zoo in this essay. Zoos are defined as a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and…show more content…
To answer this complex question, philosophy professor Bryan Norton poses some additional concerns relevant to this issue. He notes that if in fact keeping these animals in captivity is ethical, then we must also discuss what specifically humans want to conserve (Norton 15). Is it limited just to animal species, or can it extend to populations, ecosystems, and natural processes? If we simply identify wild animals, then we must ask ourselves if we are preserving a wild species if the animals themselves are forced to spend their lives in captivity? He mentions a common analogy used among zoo professionals who refer themselves to a modern day Noah’s ark, preserving each species by removing individuals for conservation. If zoos represent a sanctuary from extinction, then we must also address if there will ever be a natural habitat to reintroduce the animals into, or if they be forced to remain on the zoos “Ark” indefinitely (Norton 16). Though the work of various ethical scholars and philosophers may not be able to provide a concrete answer to all of the respective questions, I will discuss the concept of reintroduction when analyzing the third argument of this essay. The second main argument zoo proponent’s provide to support their role in conservation
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