Zoos: Prison or Paradise?

(English, Citizenship)
Below are 14 statements about zoos.

1. Zoos are not a good place for animals to live. Their food, the weather and the habitat (home) are all unnatural.
2. Zoos are the best place for us to learn about wild animals because most people can’t afford to go and see them in the wild.
3. The best place to learn about wild animals is from watching programmes like Blue Peter, where they show animals roaming free in the wild.
4. Zoos are good because they keep the animals safe from other animals and from people who might want to kill them.
5. Zoos exist to provide entertainment for people and to make money. The health and happiness of the animals always come second.
6. There is always a vet on call at a zoo so animals can be treated when they become ill.
7. Most zoo animals don’t die of old age but die a lot earlier than they would in the wild because their cages stop them living a natural life.
8. Zoos are important because they save animals who are in danger of dying out (becoming extinct).
9. When there are too many animals in a zoo, they are killed or sent to circuses or to other zoos abroad. These zoos may be very bad.
10. Animals in zoos have nothing to worry about—they are fed regularly and don’t even have to worry about finding water.
11. Sometimes animals go crazy from being locked up. They might pace up and down all day or twist their heads in a circle over and over again.
12. If zoos closed down, the animals in them would have nowhere to go. They couldn’t survive in the wild as they have lived all their lives in captivity.
13. Animals in zoos are like people in prison except the animals have done nothing wrong.
14. Zoos are a fun place for people to go and are better than sitting in front of the television.

Teachers’ Note: Write these statements out on cards, giving one card to each pair of pupils. With their partner, pupils should discuss the statement on their card, consider whether the opposite might be true and finally decide what they think the truth is. They should then put their argument to the class, giving both sides, and state why they think zoos are good or bad. After the class has heard all the arguments, they can vote on whether they think zoos are ‘prison’ or ‘paradise’.

Citizenship Key Stage 1. Pupils should be taught:
1a to recognise what they like and dislike, what is fair and unfair, and what is right and wrong
1b to share their opinions on things that matter to them and explain their views
2b to take part in a simple debate about topical issues
2e to realise that other living things have needs and that they have responsibilities to meet them

Citizenship Key Stage 2. Pupils should be taught:
1a to talk about their opinions and explain their views on issues that affect themselves and society
2a to research, discuss and debate topical issues
2e to reflect on moral issues

Why not invite a speaker in from your local zoo to put the case for zoos forward (see your local Yellow Pages)? You could also invite a speaker in from the Captive Animals Protection Society (0845 330 3911) or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (0207 357 9229) to put forward the case for the animals.

Choose an animal that might live in a zoo. From the Internet and books or magazines in the school library, find out all you can about how that animal would live his or her life in the wild. Then write a poem about your animal, starting with the line:

I am a _______. I live in a zoo.

Consider how your animal might spend each day, whether the animal is happy and what he or she might wish for. If you like, you can draw a picture of your animal next to the poem so your teacher can put them up on the classroom wall.

English Key Stage 1.
The range of purposes for writing should include:
9b to explore experience

English Key Stage 2.
The range of purpose for writing should include:
9a to imagine and explore feelings