Communicating with children about the use of exotic animals in entertainment
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The use of exotic animals in entertainment is commonly seen in the Netherlands. Although the number of animals used for entertainment purposes decreases by the years, many are still being used in zoos, circuses and on farms. Today, animal welfare is an important issue of debate, and more and more people oppose to animal use in entertainment. However, reaching consensus on the topic proves to be difficult. In this study, we analyzed the ethical and ethological factors that seem to complicate the debate, and presented a clear overview of the current situation, in order to make the first step in finding a middle ground for the debate. The case for this study is a campaign set up by the Dutch AAP foundation. They aim to discourage children from visiting circuses that make use of exotic animals. Our analyses contributes to the development of a communication strategy that aids AAP in reaching their goal. Results show that most arguments, either in favor or against animal use, originate from two ethical theories: utilitarianism and deontology. To find a productive middle ground, a pluralistic approach in which utilitarianism and deontology are combined, is needed. Seen from an ethological perspective, we did not find hard evidence that should lead to the general abolishment of all exotic animals in entertainment. However, some exotic animals in captivity do exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of the way they are forced to live. Although it only concerns a minority of the exotic animal population, this information should be taken into account, when the debate will be continued on an ethological level.