Wings behind bars; ethical and biological considerations about keeping birds in zoos
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Keeping birds in zoos raises the ethical question if is justified to do so. In this thesis I focus on the central question: Under wich conditions is it justified to keep birds in zoos? I discuss three possible answers to this question. It is justified if 1) Welfare is guaranteed and birds are used as 'ambassador' to raise money for other species. 2) In the case of endangered species, to use them for captive breeding. Welfare has to be guaranteed. 3) It is never justified. To evulate these answers I investigate bird welfare in zoos, the role of zoos in captive breeding of endangered species and in the support of in situ conservation projects. I also discusss whether it is justified to 'sacrifice' individuals for the good of (other) species. To investigate if it is never justified to keep birds in zoos I explore the concept of freedom. In conclusion, I argue that it is not true to state that it is never justified to keep birds in zoos. Even though breeding endangered species is ethically justified, it leads to many problems and is not often carried out by zoos. Keeping birds as ‘ambassadors’ is not ethically justified. However, it is not clear whether the welfare of zoo birds is really worse compared to the wild and thus if individuals are really being ‘sacrificed’ in zoos. Improvements are recommended: zoos should abolish animal species that adapt badly to captivity and they should keep less species, they should focus more on small animals and on education about the connectivity between animals and the natural world, thereby providing more activities (workshops, movies, lectures) for the public.