TI am a lifelong fan of good zoos (note the adjective) and have visited dozens of zoos, safari parks and aquaria around the world. I also spent a number of years working as a volunteer keeper at two zoos in the U.K. and my own interests now span to the history of zoological collections and their design, architecture and research so it is probably fair to say I’m firmly in the pro-zoo camp.
However, I am perfectly willing to recognise that there are bad zoos and bad individual exhibits.
Not all animals are kept perfectly, much as I wish it were otherwise, and even in the best examples, there is still be room for improvement. But just as the fact that some police are corrupt does not mean we should not have people to enforce the law, although bad zoos or exhibits persist does not mean they are not worthwhile institutes. It merely means we need to pay more attention to the bad and improve them or close them.
In either case, zoos (at least in the U.K. and most of the western world) are generally a poor target for criticism in terms of animal welfare – they have to keep the public onside or go bust and they have to stand up to rigorous inspections or be closed down. While a bad collection should not be ignored, if you are worried the care and treatment of animals in captivity I can point to a great many farms, breeders, dealers and private owners who are in far greater need or inspection, improvement or both.