To the editor:
Thank you for your thoughtful Modern Manners column about zoos. I especially enjoyed reading your list of “rules of etiquette;” you did a nice job of pulling that together.
I follow the articles, columns, letters to the editors, blogs and op ed pieces of zoo critics closely and was pleased to see that you found a reasonable approach to addressing the potential personal struggle over the ethics of zoos. In most cases, zoo critics treat all institutions holding animals, regardless of size, quality or welfare as though they were a single entity. That is unfortunate because zoos run the entire spectrum from the outstanding and inspiring to the deplorable and depressing.
You gave your readers a way to approach the potential conflict. Lumping all of these institutions together is analogous to saying that all animal shelters are the same, that all public schools are the same, or that all community hospitals are the same. The discussion about the ethics of zoos is important, but it can only be productive when the information is accurate and documented. While I recognize that there are challenges with captivity, we are facing what some scientists are calling “the sixth extinction.”
I believe we need to employ all the resources available to ensure a future for wildlife. Many good zoos are making a difference for the survival of species every day. Your column contributes to a constructive discussion of the place zoos might hold in the conservation puzzle! Thank you.
Rich Block, CEO
Santa Barbara Zoo