Position Statement

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Zoos and Aquariums

American Humane believes that the best zoos and aquariums serve to preserve and conserve remarkable and endangered species, as well as cultivate new generations of animal advocates.

Zoos and aquariums have an ethical obligation to ensure that the millions of animals in their care are afforded good welfare and humane treatment. To help achieve this, all zoos and aquariums should be subject to independent and third-party certification using science-based animal welfare standards. 

Critics of zoos and aquariums advance an uncompromising anti-captivity narrative in which all institutions are inherently unethical and cruel, which could not be further from the truth. Certified zoos and aquariums are ethical institutions that enrich and ultimately protect the lives of animals, both in human care and in the wild. And today, the need for intensive conservation campaigns is more urgent than ever before. 

Our world is currently in the midst of what scientists are calling a “Sixth Mass Extinction.” Today’s certified and accredited zoos and aquariums are uniquely positioned to combat the evolving threats to global ecosystems. Using robust and sophisticated breeding programs, these institutions fund and facilitate countless initiatives to propagate species and preserve genetic biodiversity and reintroduce critically endangered or extinct species into the wild. Additionally, zoos support and carry out research that is essential for the overall conservation of species while also lobbying for species protections. The important conservation work of zoos around the world has saved species on the brink of disappearing forever. 

Conservation programs aside, the treatment and health of the animals living in zoological institutions is of the utmost importance, which is why all should undergo independent humane inspections. For this reason, American Humane launched a global initiative to elevate the welfare standards of zoos and aquariums worldwide. The Humane Certified™ program is the first third-party certification devoted solely to verifying that animals living in these institutions are afforded good welfare and humane treatment. The rigorous certification program allows visitors to recognize the best zoos and aquariums around the world. Standards are not set by zoos, but instead by an independent collection of world-renowned experts in the fields of animal science and ethics – a sharp departure from most existing accreditation programs, which are vulnerable to accusations of conflicts of interest. 

By promoting independent humane inspections of zoos and aquariums worldwide, we can help assure that animals are being treated well as zoos and aquariums continue their lifesaving work.