Animal rights and conservation would seem to be two issues that go hand-in-hand, but that all depends on what your definition of conservation is, and whether or not you actually value animal rights more than just in name.
When zoos and other “nature parks” use these terms in their marketing and mission statements, it epitomises how hollow once meaningful terms can ring. This is because zoos rank up there with circuses as the worst types of treatment that humans force other creatures to endure – besides farming them for their flesh or keeping them as slaves for their personal entertainment (a.k.a. “pets”) that is.
The claims of zoos and zoo-lovers that keeping animals in captivity is beneficial or even essential for conservation are mostly false, and as you can see from the New York Times article about elephants below, they very often result in the animals dying while being transported to the zoo, perishing once they arrive, or else they kill their own offspring if they have any in captivity, in order to prevent them from enduring an abhorrent life of imprisonment like their parents are forced to.
As the two listicles from conservation and animal rights groups make clear, not only are the claims of zoos about conservation bogus, when they say that zoos are “educational”, this is mostly baloney too.
What can someone learn from observing animals that are kept in unnatural conditions that force many of the poor creatures to suffer from psychosis and other mental disorders they rarely or never suffer from in the wild, in addition to the host of other physical afflictions that confinement leads to?
If you are taking your children or students to a zoo, you really need to ask yourself what values you are instilling in them by showing them how humans just use animals for profit and entertainment, and then create false narratives to justify their horrendous treatment.
What this issue really boils down to is this question: how much compassion do you really have? If you have any measure of empathy, how can you tolerate that kind of treatment and confinement of another creature. Would you allow it of your own children? It is not so long ago that there were zoos and circuses that exhibited exotic humans from different countries alongside other animals, and that was apparently accepted in society, just like zoos are accepted today. It is high time for us to move beyond this exploitation of others for our own benefit, whether that be humans or other creatures.