Zoos are basically animal prisons. I am a member of one of the best zoos in the world. You have to consider the evolution of the zoo, from a cruel amusement to a place where in some cases it is the only hope for some species preservation and education to humans about the devastating impact humans have on the animal world. The zoo I am a member of also rescues and helps injured manatees and other animals and returns them to the wild. They support programs to stop poaching. They do a lot of good, but of course, this is not the perfect world for its inmates.
Ideally all living creatures would just live in the world, freely. But that isn't going to happen any more, and so we can't just gripe about it. We have to create the improvements we want in this world. Humans have screwed up the planet in many ways, and it is just a sad fact, and modern zoos exist within that greater context. So while zoos are bad in so many ways, we all share the responsibility to some degree for the situation the animals of the world are in. Some zoos are trying to make things better. It probably isn't much, but it's better than nothing and unfortunately, without them that is what some animal species would have.
One thing I will add, is that it is a huge financial investment to properly care for animals in captivity. Good quality Modern zoos take very, very good care of the animals they have, with 24 our veterinary staff and so on. They can't afford not to. So, while money may be evil, it is as much a factor in helping animals as it is a lure to those who poach.
My lama always wants to go to the zoo when he visits. He chants prayers for them, and a lot of times they come up to the edge of their enclosures to him. Especially the snakes. Maybe he chants in Parseltongue (Harry Potter)!
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth. Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.