The ethics of animals in captivity

At Big Think, I examine what surrounds the morality of keeping animals in captivity: of course, that’s already a somewhat loaded phrase, but for the sake of brevity I just equated that with anything involving animals being in an enclosed “smaller” area (than the normal habitat), by humans.

I’m not convinced all captivity is always wrong – but that doesn’t mean all are or most. Primarily, I want to untangle automatic assumptions that become definitions: that is, by definition x is wrong, when that is not clearly defined; or where there are instances of “black swans” in terms of these topics.


  1. says

    Captivity is a horrible thing. Nature didn’t mean it that way and captivity of weaker, innocent animals by humans that see themselves as invincible, the apex predator, is nothing but pathetic. We should be ashamed of ourselves doing this kind of cruelty to helpless creatures. isn’t our consciousness chewing on us already?
    It’s a shame that no one comes with better solutions. Me neither. I mean, sometimes it’s necessary. Cruel, but it is . Does someone have a better idea for captivity without losing what makes us humans: compassion?

  2. says

    This question if captivity is “wrong” is difficult to treat, let alone “answer”. First of all, a protected space can keep an animal out of harm’s way, i.e. let it die of old age where out in the wild it might have died a violent death by a predator. Then some animals (domesticated races) are not even well equipped to live in the wild. Here it is difficult to decide if the habitat (e.g. in a human household really is captivity). Then there’s wounded or sick animals, which, as in case one, would otherwise die. So we can probably identify several scenarios where “captivity” is good for an animal by our standards (we’ll never know what the animal really would choose if it could and what it thinks of our efforts on behalf of it).