Led by World Animal Protection, animal liberation extremists are demanding travel companies stop selling tickets to animal attractions–even those that have been accredited and certified humane by animal welfare experts.
Like their campaigns in the food industry and elsewhere, these activists are motivated by animal liberation ideology, not by sound science or animal welfare. In fact, a deep dive shows the leaders of this campaign have no credibility on animal welfare matters.
World Animal Protection is pressuring travel companies such as Groupon to stop selling tickets to animal attractions. Additionally, PETA has compared zoo animals to African slaves and called aquariums “chlorinated prisons,” advocating that the public stop visiting these facilities.
The main group campaigning against zoos, aquariums, and other animal attractions is World Animal Protection (WAP).
WAP has attacked professional accreditation standards developed by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a global body for zoological facilities. WAP has called for travel companies to stop selling tickets to accredited facilities.
However, WAP has no animal welfare credentials of its own. A review of WAP’s US staff finds that not a single staffer appears to have any credentials in veterinary medicine, zoology, or animal science.
WAP claims that zoos don’t provide for conservation. This is false. Zoos operate Species Survival Plans that provide for the recovery of endangered species. Zoos helped save the California Condor from extinction by breeding the birds and releasing them into the wild. The Golden Lion Tamarin, Arabian Oryx, and Przewalski’s horse are other examples of species saved by zoos. Moreover, research has shown (again and again) that zoos increase public education and support for conservation.
Further, while WAP criticizes zoos, it does not appear WAP does much–if anything–for conservation itself. A review of WAP’s most recent (2021) U.S. tax return shows the organization’s expenditures going towards animal liberation campaigns.
Hypocrisy in Standards
While groups like WAP campaign against marine mammal facilities, they support the use of sea pens–which can be worse for animal welfare.
Animal activists claim zoological facilities are cruel because the animals can’t leave. Yet, sea pens are also enclosures where the animals can’t leave–and are not necessarily more spacious than where the animals came from.
Additionally, unlike aquariums, sea pens don’t have filtered water. Runoff from boats and roads enters the water, as do agricultural chemicals and other toxic substances–all of which can flow freely into sea pens. Zoonotic diseases from other animals in the open water can also freely enter sea pens. Moving animals from an aquarium or marine park that they are used to living in is so stressful to the animals that it can take years of preparation. Lastly, animals in sea pens may have reduced social interactions with both other animals and people.
Read more about sea pens here.
Welfare of Animals in Human Care
Daily life in zoological facilities is centered around making sure animals are well taken care of. Zoos provide animals shelter from the elements, a planned diet, constant attention, and top-of-the-line medical care.
An often-used line from anti-zoo and anti-aquarium extremists is that animals in the wild would walk or swim many miles in a day. This is used as supposed evidence that keeping animals in zoos and aquariums is bad for them. In fact, it shows the opposite.
Animals in the wild travel so far because they have to. Zoos and marine facilities provide for needs, so the animals don’t have to spend energy traveling huge distances to find food or avoid predators.
The same thing is true for humans. As hunter-gatherers, humans used to cover vast distances in a day. But isn’t modern living preferable?