Zoo Animals and Their Discontents


The New York Times reports on the emotional well-being of zoo animals by detailing the work of Dr. Vint Virga, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, who treats zoo animals for psychological and behavioral ailments. Dr. Virga has “… treated severely depressed snow leopards, brown bears with obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobic zebras. ‘Scientists often say that we don’t know what animals feel because they can’t speak to us and can’t report their inner states,’ Virga told me. ‘But the thing is, they are reporting their inner states. We’re just not listening.'”

Zoos continue to stir up controversy and this powerful quote from the article helps partly to explain why:

“Still, there’s no denying the public qualms about the entire project of keeping our animal friends captive for education and profit. Consider Mali, an aging elephant at the Manila zoo who has spent most of her 40 years in what, without exaggeration, might be described as a cage, and the campaign to free her that has drawn public statements from as far afield as the morose English rocker Morrissey and the South African novelist J. M. Coetzee. Her years in the zoo are ‘a heavy sentence to bear, longer than is served by most murderers,’ wrote Coetzee, a Nobel laureate. ‘Mali has paid the penalty for not being fortunate enough to be born human.'”

Read the full article here

Also, read the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness here.

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