Revisiting the social license of zoo/aquarium in light of evolving social norms

Informed by scientific developments, society is radically reconceiving the norms governing interactions with various nonhuman animals; public and scientific research policies are being adapted to better reflect and respond to this reality. For example, Quebec introduced Bill 54 in 2014, explicitly acknowledges that “[a]nimals are not things…[t]hey are sentient beings.”

However, the predominant animal ethics theories have hampered our ability to develop policies that are both internally consistent and consistent with current science and social norms. Overcoming this obstacle requires walking a fine line between using the best available science when discussing other animals of moral concern, and being critical of the science itself.

This paper focuses specifically on the social mandate of zoos and aquariums in light of increasing public scrutiny and tightening legislation.