Karen Emmerman discusses zoo animal consent

Submitted by Kate Goldyn on

Karen Emmerman discusses the Woodland Park Zoo’s effort to give agency to its animals by working with them to allow hand vaccinations, which eliminates the unnecessary stress of putting animals under anesthesia or restraining them for injections.

Determining whether animals can volunteer or give consent for anything, especially in zoos, can be very difficult, says Dr. Karen Emmerman, an independent scholar and part-time faculty member at the University of Washington’s philosophy department. 

Consent implies understanding the thing being done to you and agreeing to its long-term risks, says Emmerman, who spends a lot of time thinking about animal captivity in sanctuary, as well as zoo settings, and has written moral arguments against zoos. It’s possible some animals have the ability to give consent, but she says it’s deeply questionable whether humans would actually pick up on it. 

Read the entire article on Crosscut: “Why Woodland Park Zoo is making animal vaccinations ‘voluntary’.”