Hi! I love animals, so I've gone vegan and started studying biology/animal psych in my free time. I wanna go to museums and other places that have educational stuff like skeletons, but my politics make me wonder if the stuff if ethical (1/2)
Was the animal killed or kept in confinement/an unnatural environment? Etc. Do you ever have this problem? And even if you don’t, do you have any ideas on how to get around it? Thank you very much!
There is literally no way to get around the fact that most animals in museum collections were either captive specimens while they were alive or collected through hunting. It’s simply not practical to pick up things that are already dead and attempt to turn them into museum quality specimens - roadkill or things that are already rotting have damage, and you can’t accurately study them.
Here’s how I would encourage thinking about it: you’re not perpetuating any further death through your patronage of facilities with animal-based collections. With the advancement of technology, the scientific world has almost entirely moved on from needing to kill things in order to study them.*
The animals in the collection are already dead, but they’re effectively ambassadors for the protection of their brethren because they’re part of the collection. Their death has allowed scientists to study them in order to protect and conserve the ones still living, has let them touch the minds of of visitors and spark their passion, has given us a way to still value and remember the species we’ve driven into extinction. There’s a very solid truth to the educational mantra that people will often only care about the things they have personal experience with. The animals in these collections are vital for that, and I think it’s much more important to honor them by supporting the good they can still do for every other living member of their species than to boycott educational facilities due to choices that were made decades, if not centuries before now. Even if those specimens were held captive for pride or killed for a trophy, they are valuable and vital for scientific advancement and education.
You can’t change how they died - but you can choose, with your actions, to support what that sacrifice means now.
*Some facilities will still do collection trips, and no institution will turn down access to the body of a rare animal in order to study it in ways that are impossible while they were alive. However, these projects are often grant- or school-funded, and it is highly unlikely that your presence and admission fee or lack therof will effect the continuation of these practices in any significant way.