Going To The Zoo
A Favorite Weekend Trip
As a child, one of my favorite weekend day trips was going to the zoo. Though we only went once a month, the memories stayed with me between trips. I would rush to the monkey house, hoping to get their attention. My mom would call me over to the polar bear exhibit so I could watch them swim. Though they scared me, we would visit the tigers because they were a favorite of my brothers. I loved hearing the various noises of the zoo. The birds would squawk as we walked by. The elephants seemed to wait until I was in ear shot to blow their trumpets. I can still smell the saliva of the goats in the petting zoo. I can feel their coarse facial hair scratching my hand as I fed them. Going to the zoo was like going to a whole new world for me.
The last time I went to the zoo was only a few years ago. Feeling nostalgic, I asked my mom to accompany me to one of our local zoos. Though mostly unchanged from when I was younger, I saw flaws as we walked through the gate. The flamingos’ pond was more like a swamp. Food wrappers floated at the edges, mounds of dirt and debris lay at the bottom. The tigers were so lethargic that we almost mistook one of them as deceased. The once active polar bear exhibit had only two bears that didn’t swim or come near any of the visitors. Most disappointing was that you were no longer allowed to feed the goats. Everything looked dirty and in need of repair. How could so many of my happy childhood memories have taken place here?
After visiting a zoo that’s more like a farm than a typical zoo shortly after my last zoo visit, I fully understood how greatly zoos violate animal rights. At this particular zoo, the animals are in fenced in, outdoor areas, not cages. While there is a safe distance between the animals and visitors for safety sake, you are able to interact more with these animals than the ones at zoos. The owners take exceptionally good care of their animals. They hold workshops on animal care, seeking to inform as well as entertain. The animals look happy here, something I had neglected to look for in zoo animals. Now that I’ve seen how animals in captivity should be treated, I don’t think I can stomach returning to a regular zoo.
The zoos from my childhood were not happy places. They didn’t take care of their animals the way they should have. Slowly, these zoos are fading away, becoming a violation of the past. Thanks to animal rights becoming more of importance in the past decade, I firmly believe that animals in captivity will have better lives. While captive animals are still prisoners, to me, it seems like the only way to learn about and appreciate these animals. Until we, as a society, become more open to leaving more land for wildlife and stop hunting animals to the point of extinction, zoos will remain necessary.
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