Early in the Life of Pi, the narrator, Piscine Molitor Patel, son of a zookeeper and devoted to the animals that have dominated his childhood, launches into an extended monologue on how ill-informed this well-intentioned argument about animals in zoos is. He makes some interesting points – about the difficulty of life in the wild, the notion of freedom in this context, the territoriality of animals that lets them adapt to any space (no matter how small) – which, being simplistic, do not stand up to closer scrutiny. But the bigger question about keeping animals in zoos is a moral one.
What does this activity say about us? The way we treat animals defines us, makes us more human, or less. Keeping them in cages for our benefit can be viewed simply as one superior species taking advantage of other “lower” ones in the hierarchy, but in this game of animal superiority don’t we become one of them?