Thursday's rally at SeaWorld by PETA and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida demanding the release of its orcas was just the latest fallout from "Blackfish," the unflattering documentary about the marine park.
Yet, the debate over the virtues of animal captivity likely has raged since the first modern zoo — the Imperial Menagerie in Vienna, Austria — opened in 1752.
Critics of zoos and animal parks argue that captivity violates the rights of sentient creatures. Moreover, they say that confined creatures — not unlike humans — suffer emotional trauma. The real lesson zoological parks teach children, says one of today's columnists, is that confinement of animals is cool.
In contrast, supporters argue that animals are well served by often being plucked from areas where poaching and hunting are rampant. And they're fed regularly, rather than having to face starvation in their natural habitats. Humans, meanwhile, see live animals and develop compassion and a zeal for protecting them — a view held by today's other columnist.
Even advocates concede the issue's complexities and dissonance, as Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas French, author of "Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives," recently told TCPalm.com:
"A zoo isn't Africa, but it keeps them safe. The keepers struggle with their ambivalence about wishing the animals could be free in the wild and their understanding that in many cases there is no wild for them to go back to."
Read more about it
•AnimalPlanet.com offers additional perspectives on the issue. Surf to the site and search "animal captivity."
•You can read about and join the debate on the issue at debate.org. Visit the site and search "animal captivity."
•PETA.org offers its anti-captivity take on current events. Search "animal captivity."