Going to the zoo? These photos will make you think twice
For more than a decade, Canadian photographer and animal rights activist Jo-Anne McArthur has been documenting the plight of animals in the human environment. She founded the We Animals project, which aim to end the suffering of animals by breaking down the barriers that humans have created to treat animals as objects.
In her new book, “Captive,” McArthur wants the public to reconsider the role of zoos as centers for conservation, education and entertainment.
“From the controversy surrounding the confinement of orcas at SeaWorld to the killing of Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, questions have been asked about the place, if any, of zoos and aquaria in a world where so many animals need resources and protection in the wild and many other means of learning about the natural world exist,” the book’s description read.
McArthur’s photographs in the book were taken at zoos across 5 continents, and they all aim to make the viewer think about the human relationship to animals. Some of the photos show the animals alone in their enclosures, or else juxtaposed against signs and symbols of the human environment – and far removed from their natural habitat.
In her captions and commentaries, McArthur highlights the loneliness of the animals and their distance from their true homes. She also shows photos of tourists posing in front of the animal enclosures, and questions whether the “mindless entertainment” they get from the zoo experience is worth the price of the animals’ suffering.
In her interview with the Washington Post, McArthur admits that the book appears one-sided, but added that she wants to spur discussion on how zoos shape how humans see – or fail to see – the animals.
“I want us to remember that we might pass through a zoo in two or three hours and return home to our families, friends, and a life of relative autonomy. Zoo animals, however, remain there long after we’ve gone. I try to show what that might be like for them,” she said.