Zoos Are No Fun For Animals

Zoos Are No Fun For Animals

Ashley Roth, Communications Director

April 18, 2016

Activists cheered when the plight of captive animals was brought into mainstream discourse. 2013’s BlackFish veered these thoughts and questions into the public eye. The documentary shocked audiences, showing them how their beloved Shamu truly lived. After its release SeaWorld’s stock dropped 30%. SeaWorld refuted the film’s claims in their desperate television ads; they promised bigger fish bowls. The public wasn’t buying it. The film’s message speaks beyond SeaWorld and orcas: Animals in captivity experience devastating psychosis. After the film, society began looking at zoos through a new, scrutinizing lens. NPR has aired several segments debating the cruelty of zoos; TIME magazine had an entire issue devoted to animal intelligence; and Huffington Post and the Guardian have numerous articles discussing the subject.


Being that this is a group based on animal advocacy, our stance on the subject is probably quite clear. BlackFish portrayed an orca’s insanity in captivity. Zoos hold their own instances. There was Gus the polar bear. Slate.com documents his repetitive figure-eight swimming, often for over twelve hours straight. Little Joe, a teenage gorilla, escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo in 2003. His frantic run for freedom resulted in injuries before he was shot with a tranquilizer gun. Other escaped prisoners were not merely tranquilized. PETA has a memorable video titled, “9 Animals Driven Insane.” The clip shows animals suffering from zoochosis. Pacing, circling, swaying, and self-injury are portrayed through actual footage of animals in captivity. Bill Travers conceived this term–zoochosis–to explain the compulsive, recurring behaviors of captive animals. If you’ve been to a zoo, you’ve seen these behaviors. You’ve seen a lion pacing, an elephant swaying, or a bear walking in repeated circles.