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Phase out keeping large animals in zoos, say survey respondents

The Born Free Foundation said 75% of the British public supports its aims of removing large animals like rhinos from zoos (Niall Carson/PA)
Danny Halpin, PA

A majority of people want zoos and wildlife parks to phase out keeping large animals in captive enclosures, according to the results of a new survey.

Research commissioned by the Born Free Foundation found that three-quarters of respondents said it was very or quite important that the next UK government begins phasing out large captive animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes and rhinos.

Born Free said the survey, undertaken by Opinion Matters and sampling 2,000 adults from each UK region, shows a “tide of public support” for its policy of removing large animals from zoos, which it described as “archaic, unethical and damaging”.

A spokesperson from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) said surveys by YouGov have shown the opposite results – that more than 75% of the UK public support zoo conservation and that Born Free's figures do not “seem to relate to the real world”.

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free's head of policy, said: “Wild animals are traded and kept in zoos and private homes in ever-increasing numbers.

“Wildlife crime continues to have devastating impacts on individual animals, wildlife habitats, and wider society.

“Far too little is being done to effectively protect and restore our natural fauna and flora or safeguard the welfare of wild animals.”

Born Free released a manifesto on Thursday in which it wants political parties to commit to phasing out captive animals, ban the importation of hunting trophies, stop the badger cull and end the use of animal fur in the military.

It said the British public supports its policies citing the results of the survey which also found that 85% agree there should be a ban on bringing endangered animals into the UK as hunting trophies, 67% support an end to the badger cull and 79% agree with stopping the import and sale of fur.

The spokesperson from BIAZA said: “We agree the Government should prioritise the protection and restoration of UK wildlife, which is why we've supported campaigns to maintain & strengthen protections for native species.

“We agree the Government should do more to tighten the trade and keeping of exotic pets, which is why we have been a leading voice on calling for the outlaw of primates as pets.

“BIAZA zoos and aquariums are enormously popular, welcoming over 35 million visits in a normal year. Just this week our members zoos and aquariums are enjoying packed out crowds learning about nature and supporting conservation here in the UK and across 105 different countries.

“It is overwhelmingly clear that the great British public support good zoos and aquariums to care for animals and to make our planet a better and wilder place.”

Other results from Born Free's survey found that 83% of respondents agree that the Government should tighten controls on keeping exotic pets and 82% would support the Government using its influence through trade deals to end animal cruelty overseas.

In Scotland, 88% of people were against the use of traps and snares, which are designed to restrain an animal until the operator of the trap comes to kill it.

A recent report from the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission said snares cause “significant welfare harms to both target and non-target species” as some animals die slowly when caught and juveniles may starve if their parent becomes trapped.

Will Travers, Born Free's executive president, said: “We call on all political parties to recognise the importance of protecting and restoring wildlife and wild habitats and eliminating the negative impacts we have on the welfare of individual animals, by placing nature protection and animal welfare improvements at the heart of their manifesto commitments and delivering on those commitments in the parliamentary sessions that will follow. Nothing less will do.”