The young elephant has tugged at his shackled hind leg so often that the manacles have cut through the flesh, leaving it raw. Not that freeing himself would help. A chain on his left front leg means he can move neither forwards, backwards nor sideways. The elephant's owner has tethered the youngster because he prefers to tend to his small shop in the grounds of the Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia. Money comes first. And so, day after day, week after week, the elephant stands there, being released from his chains only at the end of each day. Anyone finding the scene depressing, and who turns away to look for more happy animals in the zoo would eventually leave, as I did, utterly depressed. Surabaya Zoo has been branded the worst in the world and when I walked through this animal torture ground I was left in no doubt its reputation was well earned. - MAILONLINE
Zoos certainly do not exist for the good of the animals inside them. I am not saying that all zoos routinely abuse the animals in their care, but in truth, the animals should not be in a cage in the first place. Zoos only exist to serve our own interests, the primary interest being money.
We try to teach our children to treat others the way that they would like to be treated - clearly we are failing. We are definitely not setting that example for them, as we do things to others (people & animals) that we would never want done to us or our kids. Of course one of the reasons for this is that we do not regard the experience of animals or other lifeforms as being equal to how we experience life, so we justify ourselves by saying that the animal is not in pain - obviously the animal cannot speak up for itself.
We have in no way placed ourselves in the positions of the animals upon whom we have forced these lives (the same goes for the food industry - but that is for another post). We have not truly considered what it would be like to be one of those animals, we lack the empathy to truly place ourselves in another's position - we are only capable of thinking in terms of what we would want according to our beliefs of what they would want. We have twisted our perceptions to suit our needs so that it makes it easier for us to place others in the situations we place them in.
In other words, we have made ourselves believe that the animals "like" being in their cages.
Even if we acknowledge that the animals are unhappy there, sometimes we believe that the ends justify the means - meaning that their unhappiness is an acceptable price to pay for someone's livelihood.
The idea that we do not have a choice but to do things that we don't want to is misconceived. We are the masters of our world - we are the ones who have deemed zoos to be acceptable. We have the power to change the way we live. We also have the responsibility towards all of the beings we share this world with to make sure that we do not cause any suffering. Changing the way we live will undoubtedly take time - it is something that will need to be done in every aspect of our lives in every day. We will need to be examples to our children, teach them how truly to honour all life - this can only be done if we honour life, for how else will they learn?