I'm vegetarian primarily because I love animals. I have always hated circuses that use animals and zoos...don't think I need to explain why.
Well, now I have a 14 month old son, and we live in a big European city with a very popular zoo. Before his 1st birthday we'd already gotten like 4 invitations to the zoo. Every-freakin-body goes to the zoo ~even all my AP mama friends~ everyone!
So I decided I wanted to see for myself. I have heard that not all zoos are so awful, some are involved in lots of conservation efforts (this one is too) and many of the people working in zoos are animal lovers like myself and pour their hearts into the relationship with the animals.
So, today we went to the zoo for the first time. I have very mixed feelings about it.
On the one hand, it is a GREAT place for kids ~ they have good playgrounds and let's be real here, kids love seeing all those animals in person! It's fun! I mostly had a good time. I found many if not most of the animals had decent habitats and seemed fairly well-off and content.
However, there were some (the rhino, the cheetah, the owls....I only saw like 50% of the zoo so I'm sure there are others) animals who were clearly depressed and not doing well. Who had WAY too small enclosures and had worn paths where they just sort of pace around in a circle all day. It was awful and depressing to witness.
I feel like I don't want my son to learn about animals this way, to grow up thinking this is the model for how animals really are and how we as humans relate to them.
OTOH, I have this voice in my head saying "good lord just relax and quit being so moralistic!" I think maybe I can explain to DS (when he's a bit older) why some of the exhibits there make me sad and why I think some of the animals don't belong there. Just like I plan on explaining to him why I don't eat meat. And just let him enjoy the rest, like all the other kids do.
Should we really just skip the the zoo? I don't want it to turn into one of those things where DS feels left out and rolls his eyes at his stupid mom who won't let him go to the zoo when all his friends are going, ya know? Again, besides the incredibly depressing displays of captive animals who should be running or flying wild and knew it, it was a really fun, great, kid's place. We even met another AP mama (we got to talking b/c of babywearing) and ended up spending the day together. It was overall a really fun day!
I feel so conflicted. Gah!
Please share with me your take on zoos, as a vegetarian / animal lover. Do you take your kids there? If not, how do you explain to them why they're not getting to go to the zoo, and does that bother them?
Sorry this is so long, I'll be surprised if anyone reads this far, haha!