Recently I was talking to a mum about a city zoo we had both been to. 'I thought the animals were cute,' she said. And yes, of course they were cute. Adorable, even. But I also thought they looked deeply unhappy, pacing up and down behind their glass.
So why did we go? Well, I thought it was a 'farm' zoo – pigs, goats, rabbits. I didn't expect to see gorillas, lions and tigers in cages – albeit glass ones – that were far too small for them.
And as a mum, taking kids to zoos and even safari parks is something I really, really struggle with. I know it's educational for children to be able to see wild animals at close quarters, and if they're very small, they are unlikely to notice if the animal appears to be distressed. And I know it's unlikely we'll ever be able to afford to go to Africa or India or the Arctic and see these animals in the wild.
But in my heart I don't think it's right that kids' only impression of these animals should be in a confined space, looking bored or downright distressed, either.
Are you planning to take your child to a zoo this half-term? Do let me know what you think.
written by Liz Jarvis