We also believe that they are damaging in the long term, in that animals being bred in zoos are not released to the wild nor have zoos (despite their centuries-long history and loud proclamations to the contrary) been able to demonstrate meaningful contribution to conservation of biodiversity. Yes, it is possible to cherry-pick a tiny handful of projects which have made an impact on conservation but these are extremely few and far between.
Finally, we feel they are harmful from a deeper perspective. Ethically, we believe it is fundamentally wrong to lock up millions of animals so that people can kill a couple of empty hours on a Saturday afternoon looking at them – however enjoyable or educational (a highly disputed claim) the experience may be. And of course, the majority of those imprisoned animals belong to species not threatened in the wild so there can be no pretence that their incarceration is to serve the greater good of conservation.
If we believe that this industry is harmful on so many different levels, then encouraging people to pour money into these businesses runs counter to everything we stand for. It is the same reason that we don't encourage people to go to the circus to help them give the lions better lorries to live in or buy brand new bullhooks to use on the elephants. Working to prop up an industry we are opposed to will, in our view, do nothing to help animals in the long term.
Incidentally, we have never once heard anyone suggest that people should attend circuses to protect the animals. And circuses are a great example of this problem. When CAPS was founded in the 1950s, circuses were deemed to be in their "heyday." Hundreds of wild animals, from elephants to bears, were traipsed up and down the country by these businesses. It seems hard to believe now as, following a complete change in public opinion, we are left with just two circuses with wild animals and a small handful with domesticated animals in the UK. A ban on the exploitation of wild animals in this way is, we are told, on its way and we will continue to campaign for domesticated animals until all circuses are animal-free.