Give Freedom to Animals in Zoos Support Rally to help the animals in the Dehiwala Zoo
Posted on September 11th, 2015

by Senaka Weeraratna

To a human being there is no greater treasure than freedom. The right to life and liberty are the most cherished fundamental rights guaranteed in our Constitution. In claiming our right to these freedoms we become morally obliged to recognize the rights to freedom in others: particularly in other non – human living beings. To do otherwise would be hypocritical and duplicitous. A two – faced morality that would be unsustainable despite our loud championing of human rights.

Unfortunately the structures we humans have created such as Zoos deny freedom to animals; in the most pitiless fashion.  To the extent that we allow Zoos to prevail we diminish ourselves morally and ethically.

In closing our eyes to the suffering of animals and disregarding their cries for help to gain freedom from man – made prisons called Zoos, we suppress some of the most noble impulses that human beings are capable of  cultivating and sharing  – that of sympathy and pity towards other living creatures—and by repressing our own feelings and even our children’s caring feelings towards animals in such fashion  we unwittingly become cruel and merciless and push our children to walk on that same  ignoble path.

In Zoos Animals are compelled to survive in unnatural, painful, and downright isolated conditions that are far removed from their natural habitats. They are forced  to occupy small, restrictive spaces that prevent them from being subject to any mental and physical stimulus. Though the management of zoos claim to be engaged in conservation, education, and entertainment, their primary goal is to exploit animals for profit with hardly any real concern for the animal’s true welfare.

It is time that people particularly in Sri Lanka take a strong stand against the establishment and maintenance of Zoos.

The news that a Rally and demonstration will be held in Colombo on Saturday September 12, 2015 to draw attention to the plight of the animals in the Dehiwala Zoo is most welcome news. A happening long overdue. Animals cannot articulate their suffering though they suffer continually due to man’s inhumanity. In taking up their cause not only are we doing the right thing but also joining some of the great figures in history such as the Buddha, Mahavira, Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, and Albert Schweitzer who were outspoken in the defense of animal rights. The Buddha in particular defined nobility (Arya) on the basis of a person’s compassion towards all living beings.

Phase out Zoos from Sri Lanka – What can you do? 

Avoid visiting zoos. We must not allow ourselves to be complicit in causing animal suffering.

Lobby and demand animal sanctuaries to be established in place of Zoos which should be non – exploitative and non – profit oriented.

Two countries Bhutan and Costa Rica have started an inspiring trend in phasing out Zoos. Bhutan has effectively closed down Zoos except for the protection of two endangered native species.Sri Lanka should join these two enlightened countries in following suit by phasing out Zoos.

Spread the word through newspaper articles, public talks, television programmes, internet YouTube, of the reality of Zoo life and the suffering of animals inside them.

Zoos belong to history not to the future. In fact it is a culturally inappropriate institution to Sri Lanka which had one of the finest Animal friendly cultural heritages in the world before the landing of foreigners in 1505.

Educate your children and others why Zoos are unnecessary and inhumane.

Reverence for life has been the foundation of SrI Lanka’s Buddhist civilization ever since that unique encounter between Arahant Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa at Mihintale over 2300 years ago when Arahant Mahanda declared as follows:

Oh! Great King, the birds of the air and the beasts have an equal right to live and move about in any part of this land as thou. The land belongs to the peoples and all other beings and thou art only the guardian of it”

The establishment and maintenance of Zoos in Sri Lanka is incompatible and run counter to Arahant Mahinda’s words of wisdom.

Senaka Weeraratna

2 Responses to “Give Freedom to Animals in Zoos Support Rally to help the animals in the Dehiwala Zoo”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Dear Senaka,


    We need zoos for education purposes and to SAVE animals. These animals will NOT survive in the wild.

    Zoos are the ONLY way MOST PEOPLE can get close to animals. Restricting their freedom is WRONG but the benefits are more.

  2. samurai Says:

    Buddhism and Jainism are probably the only two ‘religions’ that uphold kindness and compassion to ALL sentient beings. Although it may not be possible to practice it 100 percent, the duty of all HUMANE people is to do so as far as practically possible. Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country where in pre-colonial times there were no zoos but strict laws were enforced for the protection of wildlife to the maximum extent possible. It was made easy since there was no meat or fishing industry in the modern sense though there was hunting and fishing on a small scale.
    Animals and all other creatures are all part of nature just like humans. We have to save animals PRIMARILY from people who are the biggest threat to wildlife and the natural environment rather than from each other (carnivores versus herbivores). What right have we got to put animals in cages in the name of ‘educating ourselves’? A deer hunted and killed by a lion or tiger may suffer at that moment but it is obvious to anyone with common sense that animal in cage unimaginable trauma for years till it dies naturally.
    In enlightened communities the trend today to have open air reservations where animals can roam about freely within a restricted area, almost like a national park or sanctuary. That is the kind of ‘zoo’ we need and NOT the kind we have at Dehiwala. The place should be closed without delay.
    Thankfully an open air ‘zoo’ has been opened adjacent to Pinnawela Elphant orphanage, Sri Lanka where animals can roam freely without being confined to cages. This was the result of much agitation for many years. It was opened to the public in April this year.

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