Revisiting the Social License of Zoos & Aquariums in Light of Evolving Social Norms
Gillian Crozier (Laurentian University)

January 26, 2017, 10:30am - 12:00pm
Department of Philosophy and Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University

Room 1145 - Stevenson Hall
Western University
London N6G 2V4

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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Informed by developments in the animal and neurosciences, society is radically reconceiving the norms governing interactions with various nonhuman animals. These sciences increasingly support the view that humans are not the only species with rich mental, social, and emotional lives – a view now working its way into public and science policies, including Canadian legislation governing the treatment of animals held in captivity. 

These changes are having an impact on a wide variety of organizations, including zoos and aquariums. One manifestation of this trend in recent years has been a steady drip of news stories that cast these organizations in a poor light, highlighting tensions between the practices of these institutions and the values of greater society. Zoos and aquariums are finding themselves under increasing pressure to adapt in order to (better) fulfill the social mandate that justifies their existence.

As such, organizations such as CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) and AZA (Associated Zoos and Aquariums) are pivoting away from marketing themselves as sources of ‘entertainment’, and are moving toward expanding their role in conservation, including basic research, captive breeding programs, and ecological interventions in the field. It is unclear, however, whether these moves will, or even can, be sufficient to satisfy critics.

We will explore philosophical arguments made regarding the ethical and political legitimacy of zoos and aquariums, and evaluate their applicability in the current social and scientific context, with a particular focus on the Canadian setting. 


I am an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Canada Research Chair in Environment, Culture and Values. Before joining Laurentian University in 2011, I was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Loyola University in Chicago. My doctoral dissertation in the philosophy of the life sciences at the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) was supervised by Professor Wayne Myrvold. I also conducted a CIHR-funded Post Doc in the Ethics of Health Research and Policy at Dalhousie University’s Novel Tech Ethics group under the supervision of Professor Françoise Baylis. I am currently the Director of Laurentian’s Centre for Humanities Research and Creativity (CHRC) and a founding core member of the Centre for Evolutionary Ecology and Ethical Conservation (CEEEC, pronounced ‘seek’).

My other central research project is about addiction.

Read more about Gillian Crozier.

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January 26, 2017, 9:00am EST

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