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Commentary

Human–Animal Interactions in Zoos: What Can Compassionate Conservation, Conservation Welfare and Duty of Care Tell Us about the Ethics of Interacting, and Avoiding Unintended Consequences?

Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2037; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112037
Received: 14 October 2020 / Revised: 30 October 2020 / Accepted: 2 November 2020 / Published: 4 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Collection Human-Wildlife Conflict and Interaction)
This article is an examination of human–animal interactions in zoos from an ethical perspective, their benefits to both human and animal participants, and also their potential risks and ethical dilemmas. Contact with animals can be beneficial for all parties involved, and can indeed lead to pro-conservation and respect for nature behaviours being adopted by humans after so-called “profound experiences” of connecting or interacting with animals. Yet, human–animal interactions may also increase certain individuals’ desires for inappropriate wild-animal ‘pet’ ownership, and can convey a false sense of acceptability of exploiting animals for “cheap titillation”. Three ethical frameworks that may be beneficial for ethically run zoos to incorporate when considering human–animal interactions are: Compassionate Conservation, Conservation Welfare and Duty of Care. Human–animal interactions in zoos may be acceptable in many circumstances, and may be beneficial to both animal and human participants; however, they must be closely monitored through welfare tracking tools. Melding Duty of Care and the two Conservation ethical frameworks would be ideal for assessing the ethical acceptability of such interactions.
Human–animal interactions (HAIs) in zoos can be rewarding for both humans and animals, but can also be fraught with ethical and welfare perils. Contact with animals can be beneficial for all parties involved, and can indeed lead to pro-conservation and respect for nature behaviours being adopted by humans after so-called “profound experiences” of connecting or interacting with animals. Yet, human–animal interactions may also increase certain individuals’ desires for inappropriate wild-animal ‘pet’ ownership, and can convey a false sense of acceptability of exploiting animals for “cheap titillation”. Indeed, this has been reflected in a recent research review conducted on animal–visitor interactions in zoos from a number of different countries and global regions. These are unintended consequences that ”modern, ethical zoos” would try to minimise, or avoid completely where possible, though most zoos still offer close-contact experiences with their animals. Three ethical frameworks that may be beneficial for ethically run zoos to incorporate when considering human–animal interactions are: Compassionate Conservation, Conservation Welfare and Duty of Care. These three ethical frameworks are concerned with the welfare state and outcomes for individual animals, not just the population or species. Human–animal interactions in zoos may be acceptable in many circumstances and may be beneficial to both animal and human participants; however, they must be closely monitored through welfare tracking tools. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has published guidelines for human–animal interactions that are mandatory for member institutions to adhere to, although whether these guidelines are taken as mandatory or suggestions at individual institutions is unknown. Some suggestions for relevant extensions to the guidelines are suggested herein. Melding Duty of Care and the two Conservation ethical frameworks would be ideal for assessing the ethical acceptability of such interactions as they currently occur, and for considering how they should be modified to occur (or not) into the future in zoological settings. View Full-Text
Keywords: human–animal interactions; animal–visitor interactions; compassionate conservation; conservation welfare; duty of care; animal ethics; zoo animals human–animal interactions; animal–visitor interactions; compassionate conservation; conservation welfare; duty of care; animal ethics; zoo animals
MDPI and ACS Style

Learmonth, M.J. Human–Animal Interactions in Zoos: What Can Compassionate Conservation, Conservation Welfare and Duty of Care Tell Us about the Ethics of Interacting, and Avoiding Unintended Consequences? Animals 2020, 10, 2037. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112037

AMA Style

Learmonth MJ. Human–Animal Interactions in Zoos: What Can Compassionate Conservation, Conservation Welfare and Duty of Care Tell Us about the Ethics of Interacting, and Avoiding Unintended Consequences? Animals. 2020; 10(11):2037. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112037

Chicago/Turabian Style

Learmonth, Mark J. 2020. "Human–Animal Interactions in Zoos: What Can Compassionate Conservation, Conservation Welfare and Duty of Care Tell Us about the Ethics of Interacting, and Avoiding Unintended Consequences?" Animals 10, no. 11: 2037. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112037

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