Why We Should Boycott the Petting Zoo


As you may already know, each exam period here at the University of Southampton sees a petting zoo arrive on campus. I cannot deny that this human-animal interaction can alleviate student stress levels. However, I think it is important that we ask: at what cost? While guinea pig selfies seem harmless enough, the truth behind these petting zoos is far from cute and cuddly.

Photo taken from SUSU website: animals looking less than enthusiastic to interact with students

For me, the major ethical issue with these travelling zoos is the transport involved. Animals are confined on the long journeys that see the petting zoos travel up and down the country. These animals are often tightly caged and placed in the dark. This is hardly the stress-free image portrayed by SUSU each time the petting zoo visits Southampton.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have added that: “Animals used in traveling exhibitions are almost constantly confined to tiny transport cages or trailers. They suffer in extreme temperatures and are denied adequate food and water because transporters don’t want to bother with frequent stops to feed and water the animals and clean their cages. Without exercise, animals become listless and prone to illness, and as a reaction to stress and boredom, they may resort to self-mutilation. 

Although here PETA is referring to all animals – including those that are not domesticated, the message is still relevant. Even the domestic animals that arrive on campus need stability, freedom to exercise and their own personal space – all of which is denied by the petting zoo phenomenon.

Another reason why the petting zoo should be controversial, is due to the threat of disease. In 2009, the Guardian called for a ban on these travelling zoos to reduce the threat of E-coli. As these animals are often badly treated and kept in cramped and often overheated cages, they are prone to spreading disease. This is a serious worry, particularly during exam time when health plays such a key role in student success.

Stirling University have already taken action by banning the petting zoo for future use. It is time that we follow in their footsteps. We need to prove that Southampton students value the welfare of animals over five minutes of stress-relief. The university students should not forfeit their ethics to stroke a rabbit, cuddle a lama or pet a guinea pig.


Marketing Officer of the Wessex Scene for academic year 2014-15. I'm the one spamming social media! English student who primarily writes for the Environment section.

Discussion9 Comments

  1. avatar

    While we’re at it let’s stop eating bacon, no more beefburgers or chicken sarnies either.

    Have you seen what they do to animals in abattoirs.. Frankly if I was a sheep I’d much rather be petted by an ignorant student than be electrocuted and have my throat slit so you can enjoy the Carvery in the Bridge every day

    • avatar

      I agree and as a result, I have been vegetarian for eleven years. However, I think it is important we start with smaller steps to improve animal welfare in this country. The Petting Zoo is something that can be easily stopped here in Southampton. The meat industry is such a wide scale taboo, that it cannot be so easily improved.

    • avatar

      Even if this is true, the message we are sending out by showcasing these animals in this manner is immoral. By housing the petting zoo, Southampton University are supporting the Petting Zoo trend and thus, accepting the moral consequences.

  2. avatar

    Is this another ironic metaphorical Wessex Scene article where there never actually was a real petting zoo, but everyone gets a little too closer in Jesters? I never remember a petting Zoo in each exam period and I was there for at least 6

  3. avatar

    This is the most student union article ever. One person who seemingly hasn’t done much research (the petting zoo comes from a local farm, not a traveling circus) determined to be angry. When animals are bussed around for many other reasons without significantly causing harm. And stringent risk assessments are always undertaken for e-coli- imagine the amount of children that go to petting zoos every year, and the proportionally tint amount of cases you’ve heard of.

    I’m also not particularity pro-petting zoo, but that’s because it costs money. Money that would (probably) be better spent on other things that could (probably) benefit more people. Yet I wouldn’t dream of calling it corrupt or anything like it. That isn’t true. Yet it’s very similar to what this article does- I don’t like it so it must be evil.

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