Is keeping an exotic pet morally wrong? Many environmentalists would answer yes in a heartbeat, which is a sign they haven’t really thought the answer trough. What’s morally wrong is the way most exotic pet keepers keep their animals, not ownership itself.
The first argument people use is that animals are happier in the wild. Since there is no way to measure happiness in animals we must measure the various components of happiness for a human (and we are assuming they are the same in animals).
According to Maslow the basics of happiness are food and safety. Neither are guaranteed in the wild where animals periodically undergo starvation and predators and disease lurk everywhere. In captivity they will get optimal diet and complete safety. One point for captivity.
Another argument is that animals belong in the wild where they are truly free. Ignoring the limits of territory and predation lets examine the claim that animals belong in the wild by looking at the very animal that claims that, the human.
Human beings are meant to live in the wild as well, in the African continent. They are definitely not meant to use the Internet, drive, farm, live in houses, or any of the modern commodities. If all animals are happier by doing what they were “meant to” why are activists roaming the virtual world?
That’s two points for captivity.
Now let’s examine animal welfare and the animal’s interest.
Good captivity provides good health care. Animals won’t die of minor injuries or small diseases like they do in the wild. They will get every possible treatment. Captive animals live longer and during their golden years have access to physiotherapy and a group of techniques and facilities that improve quality of life.
The main thing going against captivity is lack of enrichment. Using modern standards this is not a problem. Unfortunately most private owners do not provide enough enrichment. Many don’t even provide enough housing space or an appropriate diet.
In these circumstances it is wrong to keep exotic, or any, animals. But this is not a problem of captivity, it is a problem of lack of law and enforcement. There should be open standards and tight control of private and public owners.
Furthermore, rescuing animals from private owners is often not the answer. This is becoming a problem with elephants. Uninformed public and activists have recently been involved in “rescuing” elephants from zoos to sanctuaries.
In those zoos the elephants, who were older than their wilder counterparts, had vet care, physiotherapy, special medication for their disease and an exercise program to keep them healthy both physically and mentally.
In the sanctuaries they were rescued to by politicians that got popularity and lead to public consciousness relief they had nothing of the sort. Their diet is often poor for their conditions, they have to roam by themselves instead of meeting proper physician and mental activity standards and the sanctuaries didn’t have funds to give them the medication they needed.
Now I ask, what was the best option for the animal, as opposed to some warped moral standard? I will let you do the math.
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