Zoo Ethics

Paperback - July 2017 - AU $49.95

eBook - July 2017 - eRetailers

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A discussion of the challenges of compassionate conservation in zoos, with ethical frameworks and case studies.

Well-run modern zoos and aquariums do important research and conservation work and teach visitors about the challenges of animals in the wild and the people striving to save them. They help visitors to consider their impact and think about how they can make a difference. Yet for many there is a sense of disquiet and a lingering question remains – can modern zoos be ethically justified? + Full description

Zoo Ethics examines the workings of modern zoos and considers the core ethical challenges that face those who choose to hold and display animals in zoos, aquariums or sanctuaries. Using recognised ethical frameworks and case studies of ‘wicked problems’, this book explores the value of animal life and the impacts of modern zoos, including the costs to animals in terms of welfare and the loss of liberty. It also considers the positive welfare and health outcomes of many animals held in zoos, the increased attention and protection for their species in the wild, and the enjoyment and education of the people who visit zoos.

A thoughtfully researched work written in a highly readable style, Zoo Ethics will empower students of animal ethics and veterinary sciences, zoo and aquarium professionals and interested zoo visitors to have an informed view of the challenges of compassionate conservation and to develop their own defendable, ethical position.

- Short description


Sales of the print edition are limited to Australia and New Zealand only.
Customers elsewhere seeking to purchase a print copy should contact Cornell University Press.


"Globally, zoos and aquariums provide a valuable contribution to the conservation of wildlife. Given the pressures on wildlife globally, this is becoming increasingly important and zoos continue to grow and extend their operations as conservation organisations. But how are zoos responding and managing the ethical underpinnings of their operations? Jenny Gray has developed a compelling and detailed exploration of the ethical management of zoos and of zoo animal welfare. Zoo Ethics is a challenging and thought-provoking read; and is essential for zoo professionals and indeed anyone with an interest in animal ethics."
Susan Hunt, President World Association of Zoos and Aquariums

"Zoo Ethics explores challenges that face modern zoos and aquariums. It is a thought-provoking, balanced discussion of the issues and is both an interesting and challenging read for zoo and aquarium professionals."
Kristin Vehrs, Executive Director, Association of Zoos and Aquariums

"As I read the book, I not only became increasingly appreciative of 'compassionate conservation' and how such treatment aids the wellbeing of an animal, but importantly, I found myself reflecting on my own actions towards those I care for, human and animal alike, inside and outside the zoo."
Leonardo Guida, Wild Melbourne (blog), 2/10/17

"A thoughtfully researched work written in a highly readable style"
Talking Birds, September 2017

"Gray deftly navigates the considerations from...multiple approaches at both the level of the individual animal and how zoos impact on the species those individuals represent."
Susan Rapley, Scibooks (Sciblogs), 22 December 2017

"For those interested in zoos and the ethical complexities surrounding these institutions, this book will provide a fascinating journey through the murky ethical waters of keeping exotic animals in captivity... a thought-provoking addition to the field of animal and zoo ethics."
Bronwyn Orr, Australian Veterinary Journal 96(3), March 2018

"Gray highlights the unique strength of zoos to provide millions of visitors with the opportunity to engage face-to-face with beautiful animals and engender a true love for wildlife."
Hamish Gibson, Australian Science Teachers Association Magazine 65(1), March 2019


Paperback | July 2017 | $ 49.95
ISBN: 9781486306985 | 256 pages | 234 x 153 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

ePDF | July 2017
ISBN: 9781486306992
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers

ePUB | July 2017
ISBN: 9781486307005
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


  • Provides an accessible, well-informed exploration of the ethics of zoos — a highly topical issue in recent years
  • Includes topical case studies, such as the 2016 shooting of the gorilla Harambe, that pose ethical dilemmas for readers to work through
  • Jenny Gray is an expert author with a talent for engaging her audience. Her 2012 TEDx Talk on animal conservation can be watched here: What keeps you awake at night? (External link)


Introduction - of beetles, people and zoos
1. Introduction to applied ethics and zoos
2. The modern zoo
3. The moral disquiet with zoos
4. Animal welfare
5. Animal rights beyond Welfare
6. Consequentialism
7. Virtue theory
8. Environmental ethics
9. Conclusion
Further reading
View the full table of contents.


Jenny Gray is the Chief Executive Officer of Zoos Victoria and will assume the role of President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2017. She has held roles as Executive Director of Durban Transport, Head of Corporate Electronic Banking at First National Bank and Chief Executive Officer of Johannesburg Zoo. Jenny recently completed her PhD in Ethics at the University of Melbourne and regularly speaks at leadership and zoo conferences, including a talk at TEDx Melbourne in 2012.

For Teachers

We have created these Teacher Notes as a free PDF download to support the use of this book in the classroom.

Teacher Notes (102.82 KB)