Animals that are held by humans and prevented from escaping are said to be in captivity. The term is conventionally applied to wild animals (or animals meant to live in the wild) that are held in confinement but has also been used to describe the keeping of domesticated animals such as livestock or pets. Different forms of captivity are said to include establishments such as zoos, circuses and aquariums. Administrations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have protested such establishments for the release of the animals inside. In this paper I am going to be focusing on the effects of captivity on wild animals (excluding domesticated animals such as cats and dogs.)
Keywords: captivity, domesticated
The Effects of Captivity in Animals
When it comes to captivity animals meant to roam in the wild are either taken from their homes to a much smaller enclosure or born in captivity. These enclosures include zoos, circuses and aquariums. A majority of the time, these animals are kept in captivity for the sole purpose of entertaining humans and it becomes their lives. This type of cruelty commonly drives animals to depression, insanity and sometimes self-harm. According to PETA “Even the best artificial environments can’t come close to matching the space, diversity, and freedom that animals want and need.”
Animals in zoos often form something called “zoochosis”. This will often lead to an animal rocking, swaying, or pacing endlessly, and some will even resort to hurting themselves. This usually involves the animal chewing on their own fingers or limbs and even pulling out their fur or feathers. “Zoochosis” is so widespread that some zoos will even administer antidepressants or antipsychotics in an attempt to curb the abnormal behavior. Animals in zoos are forced to interact with large crowds of people all day, every day. This would mean that most are not getting enough food, water or even sleep. As far as a petting zoo is concerned, that is a whole separate issue. These animals become stressed due to transport, strange environments, irregular feed times, mishandling, and too much public contact. Travelling from one place to the next does not give the animals enough downtime to allow for rest or exercise. It’s impossible to know how many animals suffer and die en route. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees animal attractions. However, with there only being 100 officers responsible for inspecting more than 8,600 licensees adequate supervision is impossible.
Circuses travel nearly year-round, in all weather conditions. Animals are often caged in boxcars, trailers, and even trucks, where they may not have access to basic necessities, such as food, water, or veterinary care. Elephants have been chained, and big cats are kept in tight, disgusting cages, where they eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate. There is also no relief point once the animals reach their destination. Here, they remain caged and are then chained in arena basements or parking lots. Trainers abuse these creatures with whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks or other painful methods and tools. Another negative point of circuses is that when these animals become so frustrated and stressed from the torture, they either attack or try to make an escape. These escapes have shown to lead to destruction and sometimes injury or death of their handlers.
One major case dealing with animals in an aquarium involves a very famous Orca whale that went by the name of Tilikum. He was captured at the young age of two in the year 1983 off the coast of Iceland. Tilikum was kept in captivity for over 30 years and forced to do 8 shows a day, for seven days a week. He formed stomach ulcers at a very young age due to the stress of captivity. Six years after Tilikum’s arrival at Sealand of the Pacific the killing of trainer Keltie Byrne, he was sold to SeaWorld Orlando on January 9, 1992 where he was again responsible for the death of a trainer named Dawn Brancheau as well as 27-year old Daniel Dukes who was found dead, draped over the Orca’s back, dismembered and with his genitals ripped off. It has been said that Tilikum is very aware of what he was doing after the death of Mr. Dukes-as if he was showing off what he had done. Orcas and other dolphins navigate by using echolocation and when confined to pools- the reverberations from their own sonar bounces off the walls, eventually driving them insane. According to PETA “The median age of orcas in captivity is only 9. At least 44 orcas have died at U.S. SeaWorld facilities from causes ranging from severe trauma to intestinal gangrene; not one has died of old age. More than 60 bottlenose dolphins died at SeaWorld parks in 10 years alone, including 16 stillborn babies.”