Term Paper: Zoos Are Categorically Utilitarian in Their Purpose

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Zoos are categorically utilitarian in their purpose and function. Even when zoos participate in the preservation of species, education, consciousness raising, and fundraising, they are still performing a utilitarian function that precludes the individual rights of the animals therein. The zookeeper works on the principle of utility -- that it is useful to maintain an institution that promotes education and research, as well as promotes ecological integrity via the preservation of species. Most zookeepers would also claim that their facilities and their working procedures ensure the humane treatment and welfare of the animals; that animals are being treated well by being regularly fed, offered time to play and interact with others in their species, and not being harmed. Any restrictions to the animal's freedom is conceived of as being part of the "greatest good for the greatest number" utilitarian concept -- which in this case can even be extended to some species of animal such as those about to go extinct. If a zoo is preserving the endangered species and breeding them in captivity, then those programs restrict the individual freedoms of individual animals for the collective good of their entire species. Because he builds much of his animal ethic on utilitarianism, Peter Singer is far more likely than Tom Regan to acknowledge that zoos are -- or at least can be -- morally acceptable institutions.

Yet when zoos do things like put on entertainment shows, they are more blatantly exploiting the animals individually and collectively, for the utilitarian goal of profit-making and mass-market entertainment. The latter type of zoo is more obviously unethical than the former, and it also raises questions about the perceived utility of animals for human benefit. Both Peter Singer and Tom Regan would decry the type of zoo that puts on shows and allow their animals to mope in cages, but would do so for different reasons. Singer would claim that while the individual elephants being paraded around the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Zoos Are Categorically Utilitarian in Their Purpose.  (2013, April 22).  Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/zoos-categorically-utilitarian-purpose/3707194

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"Zoos Are Categorically Utilitarian in Their Purpose."  Essaytown.com.  April 22, 2013.  Accessed December 12, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/zoos-categorically-utilitarian-purpose/3707194.