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Chanel Salinas Ethics M/W 9:35-10:55 am Are Zoos Morally Defensible?

Zoos have served the public for many years now with the purpose to allow the community to experience wild life up close, further science and our knowledge of wild animals, and help economically benefit the businesss that locate around the zoo. Ongoing debates over zoos have been a question since about the beginning of their existence. Some debate that zoos are morally wrong since they limit animals of their rights. Those people believe that animals have rights just as humans do and those rights ought to be respected just as the rights of humans ought to be. Then, on the other side of the debate there are people who believe zoos are morally defensible because animals have no rights and its impossible to say they do, because rights are only human base. With close consideration to both sides of the argument, zoos are indeed morally defensible. Zoos are morally defensible for two main reasons. The first being that animals are moral patients rather than moral agents and the second being, rights entail obligations and some of the most important obligations of humans towards sentient beings have no foundation in rights at all. Therefore, animals do not have moral rights and zoos are morally defensible. There are two types of moral beings in this world, moral patients and moral agents. Moral patients lack the ability to formulate moral principles when deliberating about which possible action would be the most proper to perform. While, moral agents are able to grasp the generality of moral restrictions on our will. If it isnt already clear moral patients are sentient beings and moral agents are humans. Although animals are sentient being and they are able to acknowledge their presence in life and are concerned about their wellbeing, a strong point Regan brings up in his paper, animals cannot have rights because animals live in a world where they can never do any wrong or commit immoral acts because they simply do not have a moral state of mind. If one is doing only what is instinctual to them then their actions are not done after thinking about what possible action would bring the best outcome, then this being is a moral patient. Their actions are purely natural based on instincts that are embedded into that being from generations of evolution. Humans however, being moral agents have rights because they live in a society in which rights arise. Although rights are universal theyre only universal in so called spheres in which rights exist. Humans live in a sphere of rights and animals do not, and this is simply because humans are capable of understanding and determining rights and right actions, while animals are not. This distinction of the two spheres humans and animals live is a key reason why animals are not capable of having human rights. The duties or obligations humans have towards sentient creatures have no foundation in rights at all. Rights have obligations, and by this I mean if one has a right then another has an obligation to respect and obey that persons right. But as stated above obligations do not require rights. Humans and their relations with sentient beings is not one where both are considered equal. The duty humans owe to sentient beings, to treat them with respect and consider their well being since they are fully capable of feeling and their existence is an obligation humans should oblige by, because after all, these beings are fully capable of pain and suffering. However, none of the obligations we owe to animals have any foundations in rights, or in other words there is no right that makes us morally responsible for these animals. So, without the animals having rights of their own which they dont due to the non-moral world in which they live in, we as humans do not owe them any obligations. Regan discusses in his paper that zoos are not morally defensible because they restrict the rights animals have; one of those rights being the right to freedom of movement. He also discusses how zoos are morally wrong because they do not allow animals to live in their natural environment. Both of these are good points, because animals do suffer in zoos due to boredom and stress due to lack of a natural life style. An example of this is seen in elephants. Elephants in the wild typically live in herds of about 10 adults and their offsprings and each day they travel miles. In captivity elephants are kept either isolated or with one or two other elephants which is unnatural for the elephant since elephants are social creatures who are accustomed to living with many other elephants. When elephants are kept in captivity they suffer from boredom and stress, which are shown by symptoms such as continuous and repetitive motions, retracing steps, sitting motionless, etc. Stress on these animals has been said to be the reason why elephants in captivity live a substantially shorter life span than elephants in the wild. The life span of wild elephants and captive elephants differentiates by about 20 years give or take. Based on the effect zoos have on animals, animals should have the freedom to move freely but unfortunately despite animals suffering from the lack of movement, their lack of rights makes it why these animals are morally allowed to remain in captivity. Regans argument on sentient beings and their rights fall shorts in the aspect that animals do not live in a moral world. Regan gives sentient being rights without acknowledging that sentient beings live in a world where rights do not exist. He also falls shorts by not acknowledging that with out treating animals as a source of experimentation we as humans who live in a world of rights would not be able to excel in medication and excel as a species. Humans are more important then animals based on the fact that we are more advanced of a species, however that does not mean we

should treat animals poorly. It simply means the needs of humans are more important the needs of animals and yes, we should treat animals with the highest amount of respect, but we also must do what is necessary to continue our species. After carefully examining the morality or zoos and whether animals have rights or not, zoos are morally defensible because rights are essentially human, since only humans live in a moral world. The lack of distinction animals possess between right actions and wrong actions based on their own knowledge makes them incapable of determining what action would bring the best outcome which is why animals are inapplicable of rights. And because animals have no rights we are not obligated to respond to their rights, which is why although it may be wrong for animals to not be able to move freely like they were born to do, they do not have any rights that are being violated so we as humans are not obligated to give them the right of free movement. With all this being said, although zoos are morally defensible we as humans a moral agent with the duty to make the most moral choices and bring forth the most possible good, should respect animals and maybe consider that smaller zoos with less area and higher rates of stressed animals are not worth having. Although it is not our obligation to help these animals we should do it because these are sentient beings and they too can suffer, feel pain, enjoy freedom, and realize where they exist in the world. So, with all this being said although zoos are completely morally defensible we should respect sentient beings and only place them in the most accommodating zoos that will give each animal as much of a natural life as possible.