Eating to save wild-life: is a truly conservation-minded zoo/aquarium a vegan zoo/aquarium?

Mickey Gjerris, Morten Birkved, Christian Gamborg, S. Brando

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    According to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria their mission is ‘to facilitate cooperation … towards the goals of education, research and conservation’. Livestock production is one of the leading causes of often-irreversible land use changes, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of biodiversity and different types of environmental degradation – all affecting wildlife negatively, and hence undermining conservation policies that aim to protect individuals, populations and species. But what is the link between livestock production and zoos and aquariums? One link, putting it a bit boldly, could be: Does it make sense to work for conservation by preserving animal species in captivity while selling food to visitors that may be undermining this effort? Complicating the issue is that zoos and aquariums are dependent on generating a profit from ‘non-core’ services such as cafeterias and the like to generate funds for running the zoo, and conceivably, in turn for conservation purposes – funds that might diminish if zoos and aquariums do not sell a variety of food products, including animal-based ones to their visitors. The main question addressed by this paper is: If zoos and aquariums are to work for sustainability and species conservation – should food served in zoos be part of considerations – and to what extent? To answer this question the paper presents the goals of EAZA along with environmental impact profiles, relying on previously published life cycle assessments of the entirety (i.e. from cradle to gate) and across a multitude of impact categories (i.e. including and beyond climate change), of typical food items sold in zoos and aquariums. It describes the impacts on wildlife and nature that these products may have. Further we link this analysis to different ideas of sustainability, addressing the issue of how to balance positive and negative impacts of zoos and aquariums. Finally we discuss the educational opportunities that arise if food served in zoos and aquariums is seen as part of a conservation strategy – and the possible challenges such an approach faces.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationFood futures: ethics, science and culture
    PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
    Publication date2016
    ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-288-7
    ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-834-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    Event13th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics - Porto, Portugal
    Duration: 28 Sept 20161 Oct 2016
    Conference number: 13


    Conference13th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics
    Internet address


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