A great many animal lovers feel that animals should not be kept in captivity, that they should have freedom. Yet keeping animals in captivity may well be the only way we can ensure their continued existence, so the whole question deserves to be looked at.
First of all, we need to consider the whole aspect of freedom. Freedom is an abstract concept. You can hear and see a free animal, but you can't see Freedom itself.
One of the major differences between humans and other animals is that, while humans think in abstractions, other animals do not: they are concerned with the practicalities of life. An animal kept in a zoo, if the zoo is badly run, may chafe at its conditions, but it won't feel it is being denied an abstraction called Freedom. Humans, on the other hand, would - they would see Freedom as their natural right. It is very easy for humans to attribute human thought processes to animals, but the animal's concern is far more with whether he is feeling comfortable, sufficiently fed and emotionally content. Animals are concerned with their practical needs, not with abstract principles that are peculiar to humans.
Therefore, there is nothing wrong with keeping animals in captivity, provided the place of captivity is congenial and the animal's needs are attended to. An article some time ago in the
Guardian informed us that studies have shown captive animals suffered less from stress and lived longer. Of course, it goes without saying that such animals must be well fed, their dietary and health needs looked after and they must have sufficient space. Precautions must be taken to prevent emotional deprivation such as loneliness.
The main danger for animals in captivity is suffering from boredom. However, many zoos take care to ensure their inmates have items in their enclosures such as climbing frames to keep themselves entertained.
When one looks at the inroads on the animal populations made by expansion of the human race and the depredations of poachers, one begins to wonder if zoos and animal breeding centers
are the only answer to keeping these species in existence. In this regard I recently saw a film of a panda breeding establishment in China. As most of you will probably know, pandas have a very slow reproduction rate, but thanks to the use of artificial insemination, large numbers of panda cubs, which appeared to be well cared for, were to be seen.
Establishments such as this seem to be the way forward in preserving species, the main cause of whose danger is the human race. Animals kept by humans in appropriate conditions do not pine for the abstraction of Freedom. Setting up wildlife game preserves is all very well, but I feel they do not provide sufficient protection for species that are seriously in danger. My feeling is that benevolent captivity is the only way forward.