What We Can Do About Animal Cruelty

We’ve all been informed on the high prices of factory farming. The information that I presented is not everything you can learn about animal cruelty on a factory farm. There is fish, turkey, duck, bees and various other animals that still have voices that should be heard. I have barely scratched the surface of this problem. This information has different effects on different people. Depending on what taste has been left in your mouth, you may be willing to take more drastic measures than some. Today I’m going to give you your options.

You could become a vegan. For most, this is the most drastic lifestyle change you can make. It requires giving up all animal products. You should definitely research this in greater detail in regards to nutrition and what exactly you have to give up. Below is a list of a couple of sites that I found that seem to have some good information to help you get started, but there are tons of others that will help you, in a step by step fashion, become vegan.




Vegan may not be the right choice for you at this point or for me. I know that where I live doesn’t even have vegetarian options, let alone vegan, so if you can’t quite make it to vegan, you could always try vegetarian. You should also really look into nutritional facts before trying either of these diets.





I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. My issue is not eating meat as a whole. It’s not necessary, it’s not natural and vegetables are better for the environment as a whole and I could argue about it until I’m blue, but arguing with people is pointless and it’s really not my main concern to get people to stop eating meat altogether.

So for those who are refusing to give up meat altogether, I have another proposition for you. Open your mind for just a minute, a fraction a second, a teensy tinsy fraction of a second. What if you just ate less? What if you gave it up for one meal or ate half the portion that you usually do? Or if you’re feeling good, maybe gave vegetarianism a trial run for a day, maybe two or maybe even a whole week. I’ll admit that before I watched Food, Inc. that was not happening. I didn’t even want to consider it. I ‘loved’ meat and there was another factor, too. I always felt like I was starving if I didn’t eat it. Two things happened when I watched Food, Inc. I immediately wanted to stop eating meat, but I knew that I had to replace it with something. Something that I really didn’t like at all and that was…vegetables. A couple of months before that I realized how tired I was eating meat and potatoes all the time, so I ventured out and tried…a cucumber. It wasn’t as bad as I remember it being when I was a kid. That gave me some confidence to try an avocado, which wasn’t as bad either. And that got the ball rolling, so when I watched Food, Inc. I was already half the way there because I knew I would have something to replace meat with. I still don’t like vegetables all that much, but it’s worth it to me. My mom had also been cutting back our meat consumption a little a time because we wanted a healthier diet. After the movie, she cut back a little more and the craziest thing happened. I wasn’t as hungry when I ate less meat or no meat at all. Before I had been lacking nutrients in my meat and potato diet which was the reason I always felt like my stomach was eating itself.

She also started looking for less cruel places to get our meat. A little at a time, we started to replace factory farm meat with local farm meat from places that at least gave the animals a good life. This is your fourth option. To find a good local farmer that you can trust or know. That’s the best you can do if you’re not willing to give some up. Here is a great, great, great article about that. It even breaks down what the labels mean. According to this article, the worst places that you can buy from is Buckeye, Cargill, which is the largest corporation in the U.S. and if I remember correctly it’s the largest meat producer in the world, ConAgra, the second largest food company in the US, DeCoster, the nations’s fourth largest egg producer and on and on I could go. Tyson is also in this article and that’s the big one I’ve always heard about in terms of animal cruelty. Of those videos I posted, most came from Tyson. This pdf is 23 pages long, but if you care anything about the environment, yourself, animals, about anything at all, you need to read this. It will give a list of people not to buy from and why. Most of it air and water violations, serious ones, but there are some animal right and cruelty violations. There more than what is on this list and that is why I suggest buying from a local farmer. This pdf also has links to sites with maps of local farms and co-ops.

I’ve read several times, that if you just make one healthy change then it kind of makes your body start to crave healthier things. When I stopped eating so much meat, I actually didn’t want as much sugar. Sugar had been kind of like an addiction for me. I really felt like I needed it, but the more vegetables and less meat I ate, the easier it was for me to control. Part of the reason was because I was craving meat so bad, but that phase is over and I still don’t feel quite the strong pull that I did before. Try to keep this mind when you’re thinking that you could never give up meat. Just give the idea a chance. If it doesn’t work then just do the best you can with any of the suggestions I’ve made.

Tell everyone you know or who will listen. Show them. Sometimes it takes seeing things before they actually register. Don’t bully because that can turn people off.

Sign a petition. Change.org has tons of petitions. Just type in animal cruelty, animal rights or factory farms and sign away or start your own. They have a list of victories, but I honestly don’t know how much these petitions help.

As far as people in charge of policies and who can make the biggest changes, here is a list for that.

EPA. The EPA is in charge of regulating water and air. Right now, the EPA only requires permits for facilities that declare their intention to release manure directly into waterways. Communities across the country are suffering from water contaminated by these unregulated wastes, oversprayed fields and air pollution from overcrowded livestock operations. Learn more about the environmental costs of eating meat here and here. http://action.foodandwaterwatch.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5232

Congress is another group that you want to talk to. It’s hard to tell whether they are even listening to us anymore, but they should because being elected seems to be what is most important to them. Here is a great site that gives information by state on how to get in your touch with your legislatures.

And lastly, go to the source. The people that I mentioned above and anyone in the pdf could use a little humbling. They’ll deny that they had anything to do with anything and your letter will probably never even be looked at by someone in charge, but go for it. Just go for it.

There is also any number of organizations like the Humane Society, Mercy for Animals even PETA to donate to. And by the way, while I was looking information, I found out that the people who are taping these videos could be charged with terrorism. Making these videos was already considered illegal, but they are so determined to hide this ugly truth that they are willing try to count it as an act of terrorism. Who can we thank for this? Lobbyists. Corporations spend thousands to millions of dollars to make sure that their agenda is pushed in congress. We will have to start screaming at the top of our lungs if we don’t want our voices drowned out by money.


One question that I have is what happens to the males born on these factory farms. Are we only eating the poor mothers that have reproduced so many offspring that she is dried up and no longer ‘useful’? That appears to be the way it works. For the chickens I found the exact answer, males are thrown away at birth. I never found an answer for pigs, but for dairy cows, the males are sold and slaughtered for veal. There might be an exception in the beef industry, but probably those male calves are used as veal.

Shockingly enough, the first website that came up on my search was a place called Dairy Farming Today. I was prepared for a horrendous sight that would blind my eyes with pain and suffering because of the awful pictures I see most of them seem to be of a dairy cow. I guess because the oversized, swollen utters are a clear picture of a suffering animal. I was shocked again with something quite different. The site has a blue and green, grassy and fresh theme. They had videos, pictures, a dictionary, a Q&A which I’ll be using after I finish researching this and get a list of questions, a FAQ, explanations of what goes on at a dairy farm. As far as the writing content goes, it didn’t go into great detail and I wasn’t too impressed, but then I watched the videos and that changed. Had I just happened to hear a rumor that the dairy industry was a smelling a little iffy then I would be set. I’m no expert and I’m not sure what I should be looking for, but the place that was featured in these videos was just about spotless. They had pictures of cows eating grass, the greenest grass I’ve ever seen.  If I didn’t know anything about this subject, I could sleep peacefully for the rest of my life. I don’t know a lot, nor have I see a lot, but I know enough to understand that not all dairy farms are like this.

This site states that 99% of all dairy farms are family-owned and that most don’t have more than 200 cows. This may or may not be true. I haven’t been to them all to know.

My issue is that everything they do from what they feed them (some grass, but a combination of feed and they call themselves ‘recyclers of nutrients’. I’ve heard of everything from cement mix to same species meat to manure being put into the feed. So yes, they are in fact recycling) to the antibiotics that they give are so nicely described it’s hard to second guess. It truly sounds like cow heaven. While some places are probably this nice (I doubt any place is that clean which that is part of working with animals) and I know that sometimes animals just get sick, I’d like to believe that all farms are this peaceful, but I just don’t think that is the case.

So what is really going on in some of these dairy farms?

Resting Dairy Cows


Machines are used to milk the cows. If the machines are not properly maintained, they can send a painful electric shock though the udder several times a day.

In order for a cow to produce milk, they must be either pregnant or just have had a calf.  The mothers are kept pregnant their whole life. Each time she would be artificially inseminated on what the industry calls a ‘rape rack’ or with a farmer’s arm. Interestingly enough, I didn’t see very many calves in any of their pictures. That’s because the calves are taken away immediately after birth to avoid bonding between the mother and her child. A male calf is usually turned into veal.  Mother cows have been known to break down the stall door to find their calf.

While I was looking at videos, I saw one about dehorning cows to ‘protect the workers’. One guy commented that he had worked with cows for 30 years and that cows could be extremely aggressive. He had seen them barge through a barn door and not be the least bit phased and just kept running on their merry way. Could it be that they had a reason to do this? Could it be that they were running away from something or after something? I might be completely alone in this, but I happen to believe that most animals have a reason to do what they do. It’s called self-defense. Not always, but most of time animals have a reason for their violence. Especially in the wild. Wild animals are… well, wild. If a person gets killed by a wild animal it’s their own fault.

A cow’s natural life span is about 20 years, but most cows are lucky if they live three years. Despite the heavy use of hormones and antibiotics, usually by this time, they are ‘dried up’ and they’ll turn into what we call ‘ground up’ meat.

A male calf born to a dairy cow is the wrong breed to profitably be raised for beef. His fate, unfortunately, is much worse. Veal is the soft, pale, anemic flesh of a calf. Veal calves are kept inside in a crate barely bigger than themselves. Chained at the neck, they can’t even turn around. They are fed a liquid diet deficient in iron, so their muscles don’t develop properly. Many people recognize the cruelty in raising veal and will not eat it, yet are unaware of the intimate connection between the dairy and veal industries. Supporting one supports the other.

Veal Crates

Veal crates.


Tail docking is when up to 2/3 of a cows tail is remove either by getting it cut off or banded so the circulation is cut off and the tail falls off. This is suggested to promote cleanliness of the cow, utter health, milk quality and worker health. Study after study has concluded that these are not realistic results of tail docking.

Dehorning is something that was not mentioned. There are many methods used to dehorn cows. I don’t believe that this isn’t completely unnecessary because I’m sure that a person or another cow could be seriously injured by these accidently. But I do think that dairy isn’t essential to the human diet and if we didn’t drink it and didn’t cause other people to force themselves on a cow then we wouldn’t have to consider doing this at all. I also think that it’s horrible that cows are subjected to this horror while they’re awake and that the people removing them are so careless.


Like all the other animal sections of factory farming, these cows are treated cruelly. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase by up to 25% the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH. The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infections such as mastitis. This causes abnormally large udders and produce problems walking, so a cow’s legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Mastitis and other untreated infections injuries aren’t rare sights on these farms. Once the damages have taken their course and render the cows immobile, the cows are termed ‘downers’ are sent to be slaughtered. If you’ve seen Food, Inc. then you know that they aren’t treated very kindly at this stage either.



Downed Cow



And those are just a few horrors that you’ll find in some dairy farms. Stay tune because the next post will give solutions to some of these problems.


Chickens. Over 8 million of them are born and raised on a factory farm. They’re called Broiler chickens and they are what line our store shelves and mostly stock our refrigerator shelves. From the time they are born till the last second they die, they are just treated with such cruelty that it’s sickening. Like with the other farm animals, there is not a day that goes by that they are actually treated with any type of kindness. Everything that they go through from the crowding to the food they eat, to the lack of lighting goes against everything in their nature.

Because male chicks can’t lay eggs they have no value in the chicken industry. As soon as they hatch they are thrown away without even being killed. They often suffocate as other chicks are thrown on top of them.


They have all kinds of diseases, skin lesions and health complications. It’s awful. This breed is genetically predisposed for fast growth, lameness and heart disease. If they were fed an unrestricted diet only 20 percent would reach full growth. Instead, they are fed one-fourth of the food they would otherwise eat which causes malnutrition and frustration.

Chickens are seen inside cages on a truck near a poultry market in Dengzhou


In the 1950’s it took 84 days to grow a five pound chicken. How long does it take now? 45 days. What’s the difference? Today we rely on selective breeding, antibiotics and hormones to get us these diseased, health problem infested chickens. As a result of the speedy growth spurt, the chickens go through a number of problems such as, disorders and heart disease. One study said that , 90% had visible leg deformities and around 26% were suffering from chronic pain due to bone disease.  Leg deformities are fatal for 1% because they can no longer stand to reach food or water. Tibial dyschondroplasia (TD), an abnormal mass of cartilage at the growth plate of a bone, usually the tibia, is the cause of some leg problems. The end of the tibia may become enlarged and weakened, and the bone may bend backward as it grows. Lesions can become necrotic and may lead to spontaneous fracture, severe lameness, and, in some cases, the complete inability to stand.  Studies show that 45-57% of the chickens raised for meat consumption have this, but the disease is rare in other types of birds.  The chickens are now growing so fast that the heart and lungs aren’t developing fast enough to support the body, so they’re dying of congestive heart failure.


One study found that 92 percent of male breeders had pelvic limb lesions, 85 percent had total or partial rupture of ligaments or tendons, 54 percent had total ligament or tendon failure at one or more skeletal sites, and 16 percent had total detachment of the femoral head.


Broiler chickens are confined in grower houses which are usually long warehouses which house up to 20,000 chickens in a single shed. A five pound chicken is usually given a generous space the size of one piece of paper. As with the pigs, this causes a great amount of stress and makes it easier for diseases to run rampant. Because they are all packed together in such confined spaces and creates stress, each bird has a portion of their toes cut off and males have their combs and leg spurs removed, so they can’t harm each other as much. Their beaks are also cut off. Sometimes it’s so the chickens won’t peck each other to death and sometimes it’s so a feeding tube can shoved down their throat.  This of course is done without anesthetic.


After those 45 days, the chicken are transported to a slaughterhouse without food, water, or shelter from extreme temperatures.


In the U.S. there is no law that requires chickens to be unconscious during slaughter, so as soon as they arrive at the slaughterhouse, the chicken are dumped onto a conveyor belt, hung upside down in shackles by their legs. Then their throats are slit by either a hand or a machine.  An upwards of 8,400 chickens go through this in one hour. Mistakes are made and many chickens are still alive when they enter the tanks of scalding water.


These current standards insure that every single chicken experiences some kind of pain. If anti-cruelty laws applied to farm animals, but there is no such discretion



Click here for some solutions.

Whose Side Are You On?

Ugh. Animals are my favorite. I’ve always been drawn to them for a reason unknown to me. I love zoos because it gives me the opportunity to see them in real life and its opportunity I would never get otherwise so this was a hard research to do. To see what I have been supporting all these years, but here it is.

First, I would like to say that I have no patience for animal cruelty and the humans treat animals is disgusting to me. Animals end up being our slaves, our entertainment, just something to abuse or ignore. And I won’t deny the fact that I have supported the many institutions that use animals as entertainment. It is something I’ve felt uncomfortable with for a while, but they’ve created somewhat of an addiction for me that I selfishly wasn’t quite ready to part with. But enough is enough and I’m ready to have that one less thing that I can’t stand about myself. I think animals have the ultimate form of innocence even above babies. Animals only kill to survive whether for self-defense (even against humans) or to eat, that never changes. It’s the circle of life, it’s how they live and people should learn to accept that. Do I like that they do that? No, I hate death and it makes me sad no matter what it is, but what they have to do to survive and I understand that. They should be protected above all else. I don’t have problems with babies besides that they’re just annoying, it’s the people they grow into that bothers me.  They all grow up and they all turn into regular people. Some babies grow up to be Mother Teresas, some prison occupants, and most somewhere in between, but there are no perfect humans. We all destroy something in some way. The Earth was made for animals. The ecosystem has a way of keeping everything in balance so that the prey that is doing damage is kept down by another predator.  Anything bad that happens in the world can be linked back to some kind of human involvement. That fact weighs heavily on my mind. I can be extremely judgmental and overly critical when it comes to my opinions of human nature and its work. This especially shows up when I’m talking about the way humans treat animals. I know this and I know that very few people will ever agree with me, but that’s okay. I said all that to somewhat warn about some of the opinions I have and explain why I have them.

Second, I would like to say that the ‘they have every need provided for them. It’s the best life ever’ is an argument that is a load of lies. People need to realize that wild animals are strong, independent, resourceful, and smart. They can get what they need and the evidence is in the fact that they do it every day. The only dangers are usually other predators (which is part of the circle of life so people need to get over it) and humans. You link back any endangered species back to the involvement of humans and the selfishness that they possess. Whether it’s because people want their body parts like coats or ivory so they can flaunt their money or whether it’s because of global warming (I have done very little research about this, but last summer was enough evidence for me and the fact that in every endangered species I looked up, overheating was the reason so many were dying.)

There are believed to be 10,000 zoos worldwide, although accurate numbers are not kept. Conditions vary greatly, with the worst being nothing more than concrete prisons holding very distressed animals. The better zoos make an effort to re-create a natural environment, even though this is never completely possible.

Zoos are supposedly good for many reasons. Zoos attract thousands of visitors each year. They allow people to see animals that they would never get to see otherwise. Other than a safari or dangerous face-to-face (during which I highly doubt anyone really appreciates the encounter) people may never get to see these animals in real life besides at a zoo. A visit to the zoo is believed to educate and entertain people about wild animals. Many zoos have breeding programs to try to supposedly help endangered species. No one wants to see the panda or the tiger become extinct, and zoos offer hope for the future survival of these animals. Breeding programs are not cheap, and collecting admission fees from visitors is the best way to fund them. Researchers may also use zoos to study animal health, develop technology that can be used to track wild populations, advancing veterinary medicine and developing animal handling techniques.

Some other reasons people like zoos are because animals can be closely monitored in a zoo, where any illness, injury or infection can be treated by a vet. Wild animals don’t have this luxury. There is also no threat of starvation or predation in a well-run zoo. Animals in zoos could not be safer, and they have their every need met. But like I said before, this is a load of crap.

While the reasons above are pretty good, but for every idealistic reason people have to support them, there is evidence to suggest the contrary.

Zoos Are Not Natural

One, when people visit zoos, they are not seeing wild animals, but captive animals whose families still live in the wild. The environment is not natural. For example, cheetahs cannot run at full speed. Could you even imagine being able to run up to 70 mph and not even being able to run 15 because you’re so closed in. I somewhat like to run and if not run at least exercise, but if I imagine being stuck in car for more than 24 hours without that exercise then I start to get very antsy. I’m not even a fast runner or a vigorous exerciser, but I know I would go crazy if I never got to do it. To be wild, I’m sure it would be thousands of times worse.   Primates cannot gather fruit from high up in the forest canopy as they would in their real homes. I would think that pretty much everyone hates going to the store, but if it was as natural to you as driving or walking wouldn’t make you crazy not to be able to do it? The truth is that these animals’ natural habitats can never be re-created, no matter how hard a zoo tries. And many do not try hard at all.

Most animals housed in zoos are not endangered. In fact, in 2007, the Born Free Foundation researched the largest zoos with charitable status and found that less than 25 per cent of animals (species and subspecies) held in British zoos are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as threatened with extinction in the wild. It is likely that smaller or privately-owned zoos perform even worse in this respect.

Animals in zoos are not free to express their natural instincts, whether that means roaming hundreds of miles, breeding with the mate of their choice or killing their own prey. They are disturbed by spectators every minute of the day, and there is increasing evidence that this can have negative effects on them. Animals suffer many psychological problems because of their captivity and may display stereotypic behavior such as repetitive pacing, bar-licking, rocking and head-bobbing.

If zoos are such luxurious places for animals, with every danger spared them, why is the lifespan of captive elephants, for example, less than that of their wild counterparts? Frustration, boredom, loneliness and unnatural conditions all play a part in their misery and consequent premature death.

Zoos are businesses. They may buy, sell and breed animals. When they buy them, they are not always concerned about where they come from or the cruelty that they have endured along the way. When they transfer animals, it may be to another zoo with atrocious conditions, to an animal dealer, for taxidermy or to a laboratory where the animals will be experimented on.


And here are the facts to back-up my opinions.

1. Zoos are miserable places for animals
A CAPS film, No Place Like Home, looked at UK zoos and found many examples of poor conditions for animals.

In 2010, a CAPS undercover investigator filmed sick animals left untreated and dead animals to rot on floors at Tweddle Farm zoo. CAPS had to take rabbits to a vet to have infections treated and after our expose local police confiscated a monkey who had been kept alone and given cake and other junk food to eat. (How’s that for having every need provided for?)

Think safari parks are better than ‘traditional’ zoos? Woburn Safari Park was keeping its lions locked into small enclosures for 18 hours a day. A DEFRA zoo inspection report in 2010 said: “The animals were very crowded and there was no provision for individual feeding or sleeping areas. There was no visible environmental enrichment. Some of the lions exhibited skin wounds and multiple scars of various age, some fresh, some healed.”

A government-funded study of elephants in UK zoos found “there was a welfare concern for every elephant in the UK.” 75% of elephants were overweight and only 16% could walk normally, the remainder having various degrees of lameness. Less that 20% were totally free of foot problems. (M Harris et al. The welfare, housing and husbandry of elephants in UK zoos. University of Bristol, 2008)

2. Zoos can’t provide sufficient space
Zoos cannot provide the amount of space animals have in the wild. This is particularly the case for those species who roam larger distances in their natural habitat. Tigers and lions have around 18,000 times less space in zoos than they would in the wild. Polar bears have one million times less space. (Wide roaming animals fare worst in zoo enclosures. Guardian, 2.10.03)

3. Animals suffer in zoos
A government-funded study of elephants in UK zoos found that 54% of the elephants showed stereotypes (behavioral problems) during the daytime. One elephant observed during day and night stereotyped for 61% of a 24-hour period. (M Harris et al. The welfare, housing and husbandry of elephants in UK zoos. University of Bristol, 2008)

Lions in zoos spend 48% of their time pacing, a recognised sign of behavioural problems. (G Mason & R Clubb. Guest Editorial, International Zoo News, Vol 51, No 1 (2004))

4. Animals die prematurely in zoos
African elephants in the wild live more than three times as long as those kept in zoos. Even Asian elephants working in timber camps live longer than those born in zoos. (R Clubb et al. Compromised survivorship in zoo elephants. Science, Vol 322, 12.12.08)

40% of lion cubs die before one month of age. In the wild, only 30% of cubs are thought to die before they are six months old and at least a third of those deaths are due to factors which are absent in zoos, like predation. (G Mason & R Clubb. Guest Editorial. International Zoo News, Vol 51, No 1 (2004))

5. Surplus animals are killed
A CAPS study found that at least 7,500 animals – and possibly as many as 200,000 – in European zoos are ‘surplus’ at any one time. I just want to point out that this wouldn’t be happening if zoos released the animals in the wild like so many people think they do.

In 2010, zoo trade bodies rallied to the defense of a German zoo which was prosecuted for breaching animal welfare laws after it killed three tiger cubs because they were not pure-blooded (hybrid). (Code of Ethics & Animal Welfare. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, June 2010)

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) said in 2007 that member zoos were being actively encouraged to kill unwanted animals, including tigers, if other zoos did not want them and if they were hybrids. It said that such animals take up space and keeper time. (Zoos kill healthy tigers for the skin trade. Sunday Times, 22.7.07l)

Animals are regularly ‘culled’ in UK zoos. In 2006 the whole pack of wolves at Highland Wildlife Park were killed after the social structure of the pack had broken down. In 2005 two wolf cubs and an adult female were shot dead at Dartmoor Wildlife Park. The vet reported: “Selective cull due to overcrowding and fighting in the pack” and “Further cull of cubs needed”. In 2001 a DEFRA zoo inspection of Dartmoor Wildlife Park in October 2001 found that “several significant dead animals” were stored in a food freezer “for taxidermy in the future”.

6. UK zoos are connected to animal circuses
CAPS exposed a UK zoo in 2009 that was a member of the trade body BIAZA (which supposedly upholds the highest standards) as having a breeding connection with a controversial animal circus. Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm had been breeding camels from the Great British Circus for several years and in 2009 obtained three tigers from the circus.

A female tiger at the zoo had three stillborn cubs and another who died at three weeks old. The mother also died.

7. Animals are trained to perform tricks
Many zoos train animals to perform tricks as if they were in a circus. Performing sea lions, birds and elephants can be seen at many UK zoos.

Some training of elephants has been done using electric goads. CAPS infiltrated a training session held at Blackpool Zoo in 1998 and filmed elephants being trained to lift their feet and head, hold sticks in their mouths and jabbed with elephant hooks in the shoulder and head.

In 2010 it was revealed that an elephant at Woburn Safari Park had previously been trained using an electric goad (Woburn admits it gave bull elephant electric shocks. Sunday Times, 27.6.10)

The movie ‘Water for Elephants’ pretty much ruined circuses for me. A small fraction of the reason for that was because Robert Pattinson was in it, but mostly because it showed how elephants were really treated. Water for Elephants was not a true story, but it was based on real life events. Not only that, but there has been video evidence released that shows how the animals were abused, in form of bull hooks and shock, in order to get them trained. Experts and animal activists claim that unless this abuse was used then the animals would not and could not be trained to do these kinds of tricks. Below is the link to the video evidence


8. Animals are still taken from the wild
In 2010, Zimbabwe planned to capture two of every mammal species found in Hwange National Park and send them to North Korean zoos. This included rhinos, lions, cheetahs, zebras and giraffes as well as two 18-month-old elephants. The plan was only stopped after international pressure by a coalition of organizations including CAPS.

A CAPS study found that 79% of all animals in UK aquariums were caught in the wild.

70% of elephants in European zoos were taken from the wild. [R Clubb and G Mason. ‘A Review of the Welfare of Zoo Elephants in Europe’, RSPCA, 2002].

In 2003 the UK government gave permission for the capture of 146 penguins from a British territory in the South Atlantic (Tristan da Cunha). Those who survived the seven-day boat journey from Tristan to a wildlife dealer in South Africa were sold to zoos in Asia (Taken by force. BBC Wildlife, February 2004).

9. Zoos don’t serve conservation
Zoos claim to breed animals for eventual release to the wild but breeding programs are primarily to ensure a captive population, not for reintroduction. Captivity does not count as wild. What is the point of having a population of anything if it isn’t natural?

Lions are a popular in zoos, but the vast majority “are ‘generic’ animals of hybrid or unknown subspecific status, and therefore of little or no value in conservation terms.” (Nicholas Gould, Editorial, International Zoo News, Vol 49, No 5 (2002)).

Zoo director David Hancocks said: “There is a commonly held misconception that zoos are not only saving wild animals from extinction but also reintroducing them to their wild habitats. The confusion stems from many sources, all of them zoo-based… In reality, most zoos have had no contact of any kind with any reintroduction program.” (Quoted in ‘Who Cares for Planet Earth?’ B Jordan, 2001)

Captive breeding is considered by some conservation scientists to be a diversion from the reasons for a species’ decline, giving “a false impression that a species is safe so that destruction of habitat and wild populations can proceed” (Snyder et al. Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery. Conservation Biology, Pages 338-348. Volume 10, No. 2, April 1996).

Zoos spend millions on keeping animals confined, while natural habitats are destroyed and animals killed as there is insufficient funding for protection. When London Zoo spent £5.3 million on a new gorilla enclosure, the chief consultant to the UN Great Ape Survival Project said he was uneasy at the mismatch between lavish spending at zoos and the scarcity of resources available for conserving threatened species in the wild. “Five million pounds for three gorillas when national parks are seeing that number killed every day for want of some Land Rovers and trained men and anti-poaching patrols. It must be very frustrating for the warden of a national park to see”.

I would feel differently if some of the zoos money make went to actually keeping the animals in the wild, but I couldn’t find any evidence of that. Zoos also justify themselves by saying that they educate. When I went to the zoo, I didn’t learn all that much. I learned some new names, but as far as education goes that was pretty much all. Which leads to my next point.

10. Zoos fail education
A CAPS study of UK aquariums found that 41% of the animals on display had no signs identifying their species – the most basic of information.

A US study found no compelling evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, or interest in conservation in visitors. The study authors urged zoos to stop citing a zoo-funded study which claimed an educational benefit from visits “as this conclusion is unwarranted and potentially misleading to consumers.” (L Morino et al. Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study. Society and Animals 18 (2010) 126-138)


The good news is that the AZA tracks the conservation efforts of member zoos with biennial reports on conservation science. According to the most recent report, AZA members participated in or supported 1,400 field conservation projects worldwide, and over 300 projects in North America between 1999 and 2000.

  • Developing species-specific resource manuals and standards for animal care
  • Requiring AZA zoos and aquariums to develop and implement enrichment programs.
  • Training USDA-APHIS inspectors
  • Lobbying the government for more funding for APHIS
  • Reducing the number of surplus animals by giving “do not breed” recommendations
  • Developing a system to track animals and setting policies that forbid the transfer of animals to substandard facilities and hunting ranches

In my opinion there are only a few things that could justify the captivity of so many animals.

  1. The donation of at least 30% of funds donated to a group that works for conservation or the reintroduction of endangered species into the wild.
  2. If all the animals featured in zoos were being rehabilitated to be released back into the wild.
  3. If the only animals that were featured in zoos were actually endangered (which there is plenty and there are all unique enough to keep people’s attention) and the zoos were breeding them and releasing them into the wild and a responsible manner so that they would have a fighting chance.

I didn’t find too many options for being able to really help endangered species beyond those in our backyard and like those we find in zoos. One thing you can do if what I have said bothers you is to stop giving your money to these types of places. Companies won’t sell what people won’t buy. If you do decided to support one, make sure you do your homework which will be hard because so many companies are dishonest about what really goes on behind their electric fence. Donate money to conservation groups. You can check out 12 Ways to Help Animals In Our Own Backyard for lists of conservation groups and ways to get your concerns to people in leadership roles.

It’s pretty safe to say that my standards seem to be too high for many zoos and so many I saw during my research have false claims that I wouldn’t be comfortable trusting any. I’d rather be safe than sorry.