May 29, 2004, VANCOUVER – June is Zoo & Aquarium Month and The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) would like people to consider the lives of those animals who are forced to live in zoos, aquariums and other animal displays.


“Many animals who end up in zoos and aquaria have been taken from the wild and separated from their families,” says Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. “There final stop, if they survive the journey, is a concrete facility where they will be kept in unnatural, boring environments often for the rest of their lives. Many others were killed or injured during their captures or attempted captures.”


Besides the injuries, pain and suffering sustained by animals captured for zoos and aquariums, HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan is also concerned with the message given to children who watch these imprisoned, majestic creatures.

“By taking children to zoos and aquaria we are sending them the wrong message,” says O’Sullivan, a father with two children. “’Entertaining’ children by showing them unhappy, wild animals in sterile, cramped facilities isn’t teaching them to respect or to be kind to other species, it is teaching them that amusing our species is important even when it comes at the considerable expense of other species. We are teaching them that might makes right,” states O’Sullivan.

According to O’Sullivan, causing pain and suffering to the animals and teaching our children to be insensitive to the needs of animals aren’t the only bad things created by the zoo and aquarium industries.

“Many of the marine animals used to entertain humans die for a variety of reasons in their human prisons,” says O’Sullivan. “A significant percentage of these are young animals whose capture and ‘care’ at the hands of humans directly resulted in their deaths. And the assertions commonly spouted by those who gain by imprisoning marine mammals that they live longer lives in captivity are false. The good news is that in Canada there are now only two such facilities, one in Vancouver and one in Niagara Falls,” points out O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan also says that those who pay to support zoos and aquaria have to stop and think about what they are doing. “Without the price of a family ticket and without corporate sponsorships and taxpayer dollars, these facilities would not be able to hold wild animals in captivity.”

“Zoos and aquaria often promote themselves as breeding endangered species for release back into the wild, which is nonsense because one of the greatest threats facing wildlife is habitat destruction. Where do they intend to let the wild animals and birds go?” asks O’Sullivan.

“This commercial entertainment industry also suggests that they are responsible for protecting wildlife and the environment through education. If this is indeed the case, then they have failed in a most spectacular way – because wildlife and their habitat are facing more clear and present dangers than ever before,” he says. “If anything, zoos and aquaria represent our failure to protect the wild animals and birds with whom we share this planet.”

The Humane Society of Canada says the solution to dealing with this commercial entertainment industry is simple:

  • Close down all roadside zoos and aquaria and adopt their animals into permanent homes in accredited wildlife sanctuaries
  • Prohibit the construction of any new facilities of any description
  • Ban the further capture of animals from the wild
  • Strictly regulate those facilities now in existence and force them to meet the highest possible standards
  • Using the money which these facilities need to support themselves, work with animal protection organizations, government agencies, elected officials, taxpayers, customers and corporations to ensure that these changes are met for the benefit of wildlife and society.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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