Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Christopher Tollefsen

Second Reader

Brett Sherman


Animal ethics has emerged as a thoughtful discipline in philosophy over the last century. Animals were occasionally mentioned by thinkers such as Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham in the scope of deontology and utilitarianism. More recently, animal ethicists such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Gary Francione have constructed arguments specific to animal interests in the hopes of determining just where they fall in discussions of ethics. Other contemporary schools of thoughts such as Christine Korsgaard’s Kantian approach and the environmental ethics discipline consider animals.

Zoos have entered the realm of controversy quite recently as well. Zoos today have evolved from their exploitative predecessors to become institutions devoted to conservation and education. With various incidents of alleged animal disrespect, many question if modern zoos are in fact as morally permissible as we once thought.

Animal ethics and zoos intersect at an interesting crossroads creating a real-world application of several contemporary philosophical theories. I summarize these theories and assess their impact on animal ethics. I then use the sufficient theories and apply them to the notion of zoos and determine that modern zoos are not morally permissible. Finally, I present a possible solution to reconcile the sufficient theories with the notion of zoos.

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