Voice for Animals Society is directly opposed to the captivity and exploitation of wild animals for entertainment purposes. As such, we campaign against facilities that are guilty of this under the guise of being educational and/or necessary for the protection and survival of certain species. Some of these include the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the Calgary Zoo, Discovery Wildlife Park, and West Edmonton Mall.
Why does V4A oppose zoos?
1) Zoos and aquariums profess to exist for the benefit of animals and their future. The reality is that the bottom line still remains the same: zoos exist to make a profit, and when profit is the priority, the animals are not.
2) The organizations that are meant to ‘monitor’ the conditions in zoos and aquariums such as AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and CAZA (The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Therefore the accreditation they provide can be considered biased. Furthermore, CAZA has no authority over the actual operation of the places they accredit; they can merely provide recommendations for improvement, which are ultimately unenforceable.
3) The man-made environments that animals are displayed in are undersized and inadequate. These unrealistic exhibits are the opposite of educational; they promote a gross misunderstanding of how animals live in the wild. Zoos are convinced that their patrons leave feeling educated and inspired, while any studies done have revealed the opposite –visitors leave feeling disenchanted.
4) Zoos are not appropriate for rehabilitation. Animals confined to such
an unnatural environment experience physical and psychological
stress that have long-term effects, and compromise their ability to be
successfully released back into the wild.
5) Zoos are NOT sanctuaries. Sanctuaries are modeled to benefit the
animals, to help them re-discover their sense of self in an environment
that focuses on their rehabilitation to their natural state. Zoos are a
place of entertainment - designed from a human perspective, to
benefit the human visitors, not the animals.
6) Captivity is NOT necessary to save wildlife. Zoos and aquariums
profess that they are helping to conserve wildlife and promote the
re-population of endangered species. Unfortunately, "conservation"
is often synonymous with “breeding”, which is merely a part of zoo business i.e. zoos are required to breed animals in order to maintain their collections. In reality, hardly any animals born in zoos are ever released into the wild. A prime example of this is the AZA’s Species Survival Program (SPP), a coordinated endangered species breeding program that has been dubbed the “Self Supporting Project”.
According to David Hancocks, a former zoo director with over 30 years of experience, less than 3% of the budget of AZA accredited zoos is spent on conservation efforts, and of the whopping 88% of zoos not associated with AZA, many spend absolutely nothing on conservation. Furthermore, only 11% of worldwide programs lead to the successful re-introduction of animals into the wild, according to Benjamin Beck , the former associate director of biological programs at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. And of those, most were carried out by government agencies, not zoos.
Examples in Alberta
See: Campaigns - Lucy, Edmonton
West Edmonton Mall Sea Lions, Edmonton
Discovery Wildlife Park, Innisfail
After the deaths of three adult dolphins and all five calves born in captivity at West Edmonton Mall (WEM), and the subsequent release of the sole remaining dolphin, Howard, to a facility in Florida, the tanks at WEM remained empty for a few months. Instead of exhibiting sea mammals, WEM began hosting a popular diving show.
But the reprieve was short-lived. In October of 2004, WEM imported three California sea lions from Scotland–Pablo, Clara, and Kelpie–to take the place of the dolphins.
V4A later discovered that WEM had acquired four sea lions, but one had died enroute. We went public with this information much to the embarrassment of WEM. Despite the spin mall management tried to put on this incident, it became clear to all that shipping these animals around the world puts their lives in grave danger.
Why we oppose the captivity of sea lions:
1.The captivity of sea lions is as deeply objectionable as the captivity of dolphins. In physical terms, the captive environment of sea lions is profoundly limited and impoverished. Although sea lions tend to be relatively sedentary on land, they have evolved to make annual journeys of hundreds, if not thousands, of miles through the oceans.The coastal environment of sea lions is rich in biodiversity. Public display facilities provide a sterile environment.
2. In social terms, too, the captive environment is impoverished and artificial. California sea lions congregate in groups of dozens of animals when on land, occasionally achieving aggregations of hundreds of individuals. When in the water, they float together in large "rafts" to thermo-regulate. In captivity, these gregarious animals are forced to exist in small groups of sometimes no more than 2 to 3 individuals.
Rebuttal to statements used to justify the captivity of sea lions:
Justification #1: Sea lions bred in captivity cannot be released into the wild.
Fact: Although at present there are few rehabilitation facilities for captive-born animals, statement #1 ignores the root of the problem. Because baby sea lions are popular with zoo and aquarium visitors, baby sea lions continue to be born. Sadly, when these animals reach adulthood, many of them are shunted into holding facilities or sold off, replaced by a seemingly endless stream of new babies that appeal more to the public. Unfortunately, there are currently more captive-bred sea lions than there are places to adequately house them. As long as baby sea lions attract the public, there will be more sea lions bred, perpetuating the problem. (Zoocheck)
Justification #2: The sea lions are well-cared for in public facilities.
Fact: Sea lions are not domesticated animals, meaning that they have not been bred for hundreds or thousands of generations for characteristics that make them amenable to living in human environments. They maintain their natural instincts, which include the need for large social groupings, the need to hunt fish, the need to vacate stressful situations by water. To deny these animals their innate biological and behavioral needs is to cause suffering. (Zoocheck)
Justification #3: The sea lion is not an endangered species.
Fact: The fact that the sea lion is not an endangered species does not justify its captivity. Sea lions suffer in captivity because they cannot engage in their natural behaviors. Their captive environment is impoverished and limited.
Justification #4: The sea lion is responsible for shrinking fish stocks.
Fact: The sea lion has been made a scapegoat by the fishing industry. "There are no data to support the contention that sea lions are responsible for the decline of fisheries." (Dr. Toni Frohoff, behavioral biologist and noted marine mammal expert)
Justification #5: The sea lion is protected in captivity, whereas its natural environment could be dangerous to its survival.
Fact: To use the rigours of the wild as a justification for the conditions of captivity is misleading and disingenuous. This argument implies that the natural environment is an evil to be avoided and that the captive environment is the preferred state. The suggestion is that the animals must be protected from the very environment that sustains them. To suggest that the lives of these animals are better because they have been spared-or in truth, prevented-from having to do exactly what evolution shaped them to do is absurd. (Humane Society of the United States)