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What many zoo workers, animal educators, and exotic pet owners fail to realize is that when they succumb to making excuses for keeping a certain animal in captivity, they are indirectly admitting that there is something inherently wrong with doing that. It is a frustratingly common practice to see various exotic animal caretakers, notably animal exhibitors and zoo workers, explain to the general public that they have the animal because:
• It wouldn’t survive on its own in the wild
• The animal is an ambassador for its species
• There is no ‘wild’ left
• Keeping the animal aids conservation efforts
Some exotic animal caretakers even go as far as to give this toxic statement:
“We wish all of these animals could be free, but that’s just not possible”.
By giving these ‘excuses’ to keep exotic animals in captivity and not simply suggesting that an exotic animal that is well taken care of should not be viewed any differently from the ‘traditional’ pets that society unquestionably accepts, you are not only agreeing with animal rights activists that certain animals do not belong in captivity, but you will also be expected to defend your position.
And you will lose.
Why? If the anti-captivity person you are arguing with has half a brain, they will shut down these lame excuses. I will demonstrate this for you.
• While it’s true that this animal cannot survive in the wild, it’s your fault (if the animal is not a legitimate wild rescue) that it’s there in the first place. You purchased the animal from a breeder, or the animal was re-homed to you and you are encouraging the trade by showing it off.
• Maybe ‘animal ambassadors’ help educate people and raise awareness, but they are not the only way to do this. There are other ways of teaching people about animals without ‘cruelly’ keeping this animal in captivity. In fact, one could argue that by displaying this tame animal on a leash, you are misrepresenting it and instead teaching the public that they make good pets.
• Nice try saying that there is no wild left. That doesn’t mean that you should keep encouraging the presence of exotic animals in entertainment or as pets.
• It is a rare occurrence that captive exotic animals actually contribute to release efforts. ‘Real’ conservation involves in situ breeding programs with species that have enough wild left to support these introduced populations.
Because the above excuses do not fly and educated animal rights activists will be equipped to effectively argue against exotic animal caretakers that cling to them, they should never be used to justify captive animals. Instead, they can be seen as benefits, but the reality is that
NO ONE should feel obligated to entertain the ‘exotic animals shouldn’t be in captivity’ narrative.
The statement “why do you need an exotic pet” is a loaded question. If it sounds stupid to ask a dog or cat owner the same question (why do you need a cat?), an exotic pet owner should not be asked that. It should be self-explanatory because in general, keeping an exotic pet is not different from keeping any other pet if it is being done correctly.
All exotic pet owners and zoo workers should be comfortable with animals in captivity for human interest, because there’s nothing wrong with it.
If you are one of the many exotic pet caretakers that thinks keeping exotic pets is wrong (this sounds like it makes no sense, but I can assure you that this is ridiculously common), your hypocrisy will eventually be called out, and it will be justified.