By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
There are so many things in life once considered ‘normal’ that today would have no place in our society. Seatbelts in cars, safety helmets when skiing, or high-visibility lights on a bicycle. Decades ago, each were not an important, nor significant consideration…but now we wouldn’t dream of purchasing a car that didn’t have seatbelts, or skiing down a mountain without head protection. That’s because we, as humans, learn over time. Through habit, research, and mistakes — our society is constantly adapting and recategorising to ensure that we aren’t often making the same mistakes twice.
It’s time to not continue the mistake of accepting the Zoo as an acceptable attraction, and instead work towards ensuring these animals being held in a prison (zoo) could be able to have a better life. Zoos have become a slippery divide between exploitation and education — and they’ve slipped deeper into the exploitation side as the world has evolved.
Animals are routinely treated badly, they’re suffering, and daily they are there purely to provide some form of entertainment to visitors. Zoos are doing their best to deliver what the public wants…but it’s at the expense of the animals welfare. The argument that zoos have educational merit might have once seemed convincing, but there is less reason to see animals in captivity than ever before. Just a quick look at David Attenborough’s Planet Earth on Netflix shows you all the animals you could ask for in their natural habitat, with added drama and narrative information. Zoos do not play a significant role in the conservation of wildlife, their claims to educate are exaggerated and their research is compromised.
Recently, Al Khor Park, one of the oldest in Qatar, reopened after having been closed for the last six years while undergoing renovations. The website boasts “a small zoo with oryx, emu, zebras and exotic birds, among others” — animals that should be looked after in a sanctuary, such as the Oryx, and others that should be free in the wild, or looked after appropriately by conservationists, not by those using the animals for human entertainment.
There are so many other, effective ways to educate young people on animals. Our very own National Museum of Qatar does an excellent job at being a world-class, standard-setting learning space through innovative displays, interaction areas and exhibits.
You’re able to explore the geology of Qatar, its natural environment, and archaeological evidence of early life through various artefacts, 3D sculptures, recorded testimonials, films and poetry. It’s visually fascinating, informative, and doesn’t exploit animals.
If we do nothing, we are teaching the next generation to regard zoos as a completely acceptable part of our society — which they are not. It’s 2020 and the world has realised like it never has done before of the importance of allowing animals to lead the life they want to live, to co-exist with us humans, to be free and live the life they are destined to live. Look no further than the current coronavirus outbreak spreading across the world to realise how bad things get when humans mess with wild animals that were never supposed to end up on a plate.
The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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