Department or Program

Environmental Studies


When we go about our daily lives, we interact with animals in different ways. But is there a right way to treat each animal? Consider facets of our society that seem normal. Specifically, consider the zoo. Is there nothing wrong with modern zoos, ethically? This thesis aims to examine zoos through an ethical lens. Beginning with the work of Peter Singer and Christine Korsgaard, this thesis first discusses what we owe to each type of animal. Importantly, consideration that we give to each species should not stop at just suffering. Animals are complex beings for whom things can be good for or bad for. Following this, Philip Pettit’s concept of domination is discussed and intersected with Korsgaard’s idea of good for and bad for. Domination is a problematic form of biopower that does not take the dominated’s goods into account. But, biopower is not always bad. I outline a concept that I call management to show how biopower does not have to take the form of domination. It is then discussed why one might have a duty not to dominate other animals. Because we are beings that have goods and bads (things that can be good for or bad for us and our function) and we share this capacity with animals, we must consider this when treating them. Further, we are beings who can be dominated ourselves, and thus have a duty to not dominate when treating other beings. Zoos will then be considered, and it will be argued that they are problematic for three main reasons: zoo enclosures and exhibits actively harm the animals kept within them, zoo design does not allow for the animals’ natural goods and function to occur, and when in modern zoos, many animals are dominated. But, not all aspects of zoos are bad. There are some facets of the modern zoo that are laudable and should remain. Finally, using these commendable aspects, my recommendations for the modern zoo are given. To exist ethically, zoos either need to be abolished entirely or undergo drastic changes.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Paul Schofield

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.