Zoos Vs Sanctuaries – Top Tips to Avoid Making Unethical Choices

zoos vs santuaries

Zoos vs sanctuaries: do you know the difference?

On either side of the penny, like most things in life, there’s both good and bad.

Not all zoos and sanctuaries were created equal!

Education is everything… 🙂

For example, it’s surprising how many travellers in Thailand deem elephant rides ethical.

They’re not…But most don’t know, or care, enough to question the morality of it – as long as it is insta-worthy. *eye roll*

In this blog, discover how to avoid making unethical animal decisions

Zoos Vs Sanctuaries: Our Human Experience

My fondest childhood memories date back to times spent with my family at the small zoo. 

It sat on the outskirts of my hometown.

As a kid, it was an experience like no other (and, honestly, it still is to this day.)

It’s one thing to see the world’s most beautiful and most exotic wildlife through a TV screen or on your Instagram feed…

…but there’s NOTHING like seeing these creatures up close with your own two eyes. 

For me, it was iconic movies like Dumbo and The Jungle Book that certainly fuelled my obsession with elephants.

I was hooked on just how massive and gentle they were. 

After nagging my parents and waiting for a nice summer day, we finally visited our closest zoo for the first time.

And there they were.


I was nothing short of awestruck. 

I’m sure if you rack your brain you can think back to your own zoo visits too. 

Remember seeing your own favourite animal for the first time?

…and falling in love with the meerkats or the snow leopards. 

Remember how it felt to be heading back months or years later to see them again? 

Seeing the excitement of kids picking out their dream animals from the little zoo map is the sweetest thing.

Whether visiting a zoo in your local area or while travelling abroad, these animal centres certainly have magic you can’t find anywhere else. 

Our Ethical Awakening

Yet, as we get older and gain an understanding of the world, you start seeing the realistic side of zoos and wildlife exhibits.

And begin to doubt whether they’re so much of a good idea

As adults, it can feel as though keeping animals in captivity is cruel and immoral. 

Especially since so many centres keep and use animals for public entertainment

So, is there much of a difference between zoos and sanctuaries

Whether you’re interested in the debate, planning your own visit, or just trying to be a better human, we’re here to help you avoid making an unethical decision in your home country or abroad. 

Why Do Zoos and Sanctuaries Exist?

To understand the ins and outs of what separates zoos and sanctuaries, let’s explore why they exist in the first place.

Of course, there’s the entertainment factor.

People love animals.

Especially ones they’re never going to see anywhere else.

What’s more, visiting them makes for a nice day out with family or friends, but it’s not all about pleasing humans.

There are also plenty of zoos and sanctuaries set up for the benefit of the animals.

Mainly due to human activity, the destruction of natural habitats has put animals at risk.

Couple this with issues like: 

  • pollution of the environment
  • poaching
  • hunting
  • and other such activities

Animals are increasingly threatened, sometimes to a point where they can’t possibly survive in on their own.

As a result, animals need to live in specialized wildlife centres like zoos and sanctuaries.

At least, this is part of the concept.

The rabbit hole does dive a little deeper than just giving animals a happy life, and there are many facilities that work to different motives.

Everything You Need to Know About Zoos

You may be wondering how do you define a good zoo from a bad zoo?

There are plenty of zoos that work to help animals in need, as well as simply make a profit.

Our role is to go out of our way to find the zoos giving back, and really do our homework.

We need to be more proactive and mindful in our approach to choosing activities.

For example, take Banham Zoo, in the south of the UK funds breeding programs for Red Panda’s (now endangered) and protects their habitat areas.

This zoo aims to profit while making enough money to support several animal charities, conservation projects, and volunteer schemes that it works alongside.

There’s a huge push in places like this to help endangered species by encouraging rebreeding programs.

Zoos That Inspire Action From Us

Your entry ticket fee provides support to the animals and funds their well-being.

It can also inspire zoo-goers to want to connect more with nature.

Better yet, it inspires them to get involved in the solution!

It’s amazing to think how many visited a zoo as kids, fell in love with the animals, and now work as conservationists or volunteers as a result. 

If I told you elephants are suffering due to poaching and hunting, you might think, ‘oh, yeah, that’s not good.

Should probably do something about that,’ but it’s easy to be indifferent.

However, when you actually see elephants for yourself in a zoo setting, you become so much more inspired, more compassionate, and more motivated to help.

Seeing the animals in real life can inspire that sense of awe you’re simply not going to get anywhere else.

Unfortunately, This Doesn’t Hold True To All Zoos.

Some zoos will breed, buy, sell and trade animals however they please solely to make a profit. 

Effectively using animals as ‘stock’.

Many go out of their way to capture animals in their natural habitats even though they’re perfectly fine in the world.

They do this simply because they’ll make a good public display.

Think of a lion with an incredibly impressive mane, for example, and how many people this can draw in.

The difference is these “zoos” look at animal welfare through the lens of a money-making business.

That’s the grey area.

There are even stories of zoos overbreeding their animals, ensuring they always have cute baby animals on display – another sure-fire way to attract the public.

They want to see lions running around and cubs playing.

This is what draws the money in, but it’s this desire that can lead to immoral outcomes, such as: 

  • overcrowded pens
  • young animals being separated from parents
  • and a lack of considered rights for the individual animals

The Trick Is To Make Sure You’re Choosing The Right Zoos To Support

The easiest way to do this is to check to see which organisations the zoos are partnered with.

More specifically if the zoo is connected with the animal protection organisation of the country.

These include organisations like:

These institutions are set up to ensure zoos aren’t overbreeding to sell and profit from through the implementation of no-breeding policies.

Others will ensure that zoos are making ample contributions to animal research and conservation projects, all in all, ensuring the zoos you’re visiting are set up and operating for moral reasons.

Key takeaways: 

  1. Check zoo partnerships
  2. Find out if the zoo funds any charitable initiatives or conservation projects

How are Sanctuaries Different?

The main difference is that sanctuaries acquire their animals in a much different way

They don’t buy or sell animals, won’t capture them from the wild, nor breed them for profit.

Instead, sanctuaries only take animals that are incapable of living by themselves in their natural habitats and are in need of a little assistance.

The animals could be: 

  • injured
  • confiscated as an illegal pet
  • leftover as excess ‘stock’ from a zoo
  • or even rescued from laboratory settings when used as research subjects

The objective of these sanctuaries is to bring the animals back up to health. 

With the hope of releasing them back into the wild,  where they can live free. 

Or, giving them a high quality of life as much as possible.

This Is How Zoos And Sanctuaries Differ

Sanctuaries simply don’t exist for the benefit of the public

Sure, there are those that will allow visitors, have petting areas, or the chance to walk around and see what’s going on, but this is only to help boost the funding that allows the sanctuary to continue working.

Other centres aren’t open to the public and will solely rely on charitable donations and funding

You may be wondering how you can tell the difference between a zoo and a sanctuary, especially if a zoo is actually using the word ‘sanctuary’ to create the image that it’s not actually a zoo.

It’s quite easy; you just need to ask one simple question.

Ask Yourself, Is The Sanctuary Putting The Animals First?

Wildlife sanctuaries are all about being responsible for the animals and running ethically.

Animals don’t perform for the people. 

Nor are they in incredibly artificial enclosures, but rather in habitats created to match their natural homes as close as possible.

Introducing, Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary

Our animal enclosures are natural fields and paddocks for the animals to explore, and the main focus is on looking after the animals who are injured and bringing them back to health.

At the beginning of 2021, a friend of the sanctuary rescued a paralyzed donkey (later named Platero) who had sustained major head injuries while tied to a tree.

Suffering from inflammation, the nerves in Platero’s neck blocked off the rest of his body hence his motor skills were suffering, and he was unable to hold himself up without standing. 

If left unattended, Platero would surely die from his condition.

Meet Platero The Donkey

After emergency surgery carried out by the veterinarians of the sanctuary, Platero was able to walk with the assistance of the sanctuary volunteers, who would follow him around while holding the ends of a support sheet that wrapped around his underside to help support his weight and build his muscles back up.


At the time of writing, Platero still has a way to go with antibiotic treatment, recovery, and some further minor surgery to fix his liver and kidney failure caused by peritonitis, but Platero is around people who genuinely care about his well-being and want to free him from suffering

We are hopeful of a full recovery over the coming months.

When you compare these actions to that of a traditional zoo, which would mass breed animals to profit, it becomes easy to see why people are more likely to support a sanctuary. 

But since sanctuaries aren’t always open to the public, it can be challenging to motivate people to want to help.

We’re trying to help spread the word through our blog and social media channels.

Another Way to Help Those Who Need It

Over the last few years, at Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary we been able to fund our animal care donations and by offering a kennel service that looks after dogs while their owners travelled abroad or went to work.

However, since the COIVD-19 pandemic began, fewer people are travelling, so fewer dogs need looking after, and the kennel service hasn’t been as used.

This meant funding has dwindled, and carrying out expensive procedures like Platero’s surgery, as well as paying for general upkeep for all the 140+ animals, has really stretched our budget.

Fortunately, we have come up with Cult Quotes as a way to raise money for the cause, all while giving you something in return.

A note from Juliana:

Rescuing animals is my goal in life, but it takes money to help them. Everything I do, everything I create, everything I invent is always with the maximum purpose of helping animals and making humans happy.

Introducing Cult Quotes – Clothing With A Cause

A clothing store by nature, Cult Quotes is our up-and-coming website filled with hoodies and jumpers that, as the name suggests, are printed with quotes from all your favourite movies, books, and fandoms.

You’ll see iconic statements from movies, including:

  • Star Wars
  • Seinfield
  • The X Files
  • Marvel
  • Harry Potter
  • And many more to come over the next year

Simple by design, buying hoodies and t-shirts like this is a fun little way to make a donation to our sanctuary.

It makes a huge difference!

Your donation helps us to keep running and ensures the animal can continue to be looked after, receiving the care and attention they need to get back on their feet and live a healthy life. 

And the best part? 

You get a fun feel-good hoodie to remind you of your kind and generous donation. 

100% of the profits go back into Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary, so you know your money is actually going to the right place, confirmed by the fact it’s a 501c3-registered charity.

Which also means your donation is tax-deductible. 🙂

Hoodies average around $43, depending on which size you want (which ranges from S to 5XL). 

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, please visit our new website CultQuote and take a look around. 


Follow Us

Remember – follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter we could really use your support, and it is a great opportunity to get to know the animals in our care and see how your money is spent.

We hope you found this post useful and you feel more confident avoiding unethical animal decision in future.

If you liked this post don’t forget to share it with your animal-loving friends and leave your thoughts with us in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you. 🙂

Additional Resources You May Find Useful

  1. Our Sanctuaries Amazon Wishlist
  2. Make a Donation to Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary
  3. Read Animal Stories On The Blog