When I was a kid, I loved animals (still do!). I really enjoyed when I got to go to zoos or pet farms and see all the amazing animals. I also loved reading books about animals, watching TV shows about them and spent most of my free time with animals.
Now that I’m an adult, I’ve come to realise that I don’t agree with many things about zoos. I don’t believe in ownership of animals. Zoos are generally businesses so I worry that the animals’ well-being won’t always be more important to them than making money. I also worry that they might not really be helping with conservation as much as you might think. Most animals that are bred in captivity never get released into the wild. I also don’t agree with some practices that are common in many zoos, such as culling animals when they have ones that they don’t want. Because of these things, we don’t feel comfortable with bringing our kids to the zoo, and have decided not to.
At first I was sad that they’d miss out on a fun day out, but then realised that there are loads of other ways they can learn about animals and spend time around them that are just as fun.
We love visiting animal sanctuaries with the kids. Knowing that the animals are rescued, that they don’t euthanize healthy animals and that they don’t breed animals makes me feel a lot better about being there. The kids get to see animals and feel good about it because they know that the animals are being helped by being there.
Spending Time in Nature
We’re lucky enough to live in the countryside and love going hiking so we get to see loads of wild animals. Sure they might not be as exotic as lions and tigers, but our native wildlife are really just as interesting and beautiful. We see lots of small animals like different species of birds, insects, squirrels and mice. We love bird watching too. Setting up a bird feeder in your garden is a good way of helping wildlife and you get to see beautiful wild birds. We’ve also seen quite a lot of sea life on trips to the beach and when we go snorkelling.
Watching Documentaries and Reading Books
We love watching nature documentaries and reading books about nature with the kids. If you think about it, it’s actually a lot more educational to learn about wild animals in their natural habitats than to see them at the zoo. In documentaries you can see animals carrying out more of their natural behaviour and it’s far more amazing than seeing them in a human-made environment.
Spending Time with our Companion Animals
We also love spending time with our companion animals. The kids love being around dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals. They can interact with them which they can’t do with wild animals, and it’s great for everyone involved. We love walking with our dog Sophie, who has become a wonderful friend for the kids. The kids have enriched her life as much as she has theirs.
When the Kids Are Older
When the kids are older we plan to go to more museums, where they can learn about animals in a way that won’t harm them. We’d also love to volunteer for some animal rescue shelters, walking dogs, cleaning or just spending time with the animals. Their dad wants to teach them to kayak so they’ll see loads of water birds and maybe even otters if they’re lucky. We also plan to get the kids involved with helping to care for some rescued animals. I seem to come across animals that need help quite often so I’m sure we’ll find some abandoned, orphaned or injured wildlife or domesticated animals, and get them veterinary care, look after them and/or bring them to a wildlife rehabilitator. This will be very educational for the kids and I’m sure they’ll love helping to care for the animals.
With all these ways to spend time around animals and learn about them, I don’t feel like my kids are missing out on anything by not going to the zoo. Most importantly we know that these activities are not contributing to animals being harmed in any way, we feel good about that and are teaching our kids to respect all animals.