On 1st January 2023, a lion killed a lioness at the Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire, UK. After the incident, visitors were diverted away from the lion enclosure in the early afternoon, and one visitor who was close to the enclosure said on social media that a wounded lioness was visible lying still on the ground. Staff said the lioness died very quickly.
Chris Lewis, Captivity Research Officer of the Born Free Foundation, said the following about the incident: “These incidents highlight one of the many reasons why these species should not be kept in captivity. These animals are denied the opportunity to choose their own mates, and lack the ability to escape aggressive interactions. Combine this with the unnatural social behaviour that is so common among wild animals that are confined in captive environments, and you have a recipe for these kinds of tragic consequences. Zoos cannot claim that their facilities are the safest place for these animals, while at the same time trying to justify the occurrence of such incidents as ‘natural’.”
Only two weeks before, Tala and Sumi, two red panda cubs born last summer at the safari park, died when the temperature went below freezing. Staff said the initial investigations indicated that their deaths were caused by hypothermia and weaning issues. These had been born as part of the park’s captive breeding programme for endangered species, showing how ill-thought these programmes are by bringing into existence animals in environments not suitable for them.
Several similar incidents of tragic deaths have been recorded in UK zoos in the last few years. In November 2022, a female Amur tiger was killed during a breeding introduction at Knowsley Safari Park. In June 2021, a whistle-blower at Blair Drummond Safari Park reported the death of two lionesses following an altercation with a male lion. In February 2019, a female Sumatran tiger was killed by a male at ZSL London Zoo. In the same month, a lion was killed by lionesses at Knowsley Safari Park.
All these incidents are examples of how zoos and safari parks (which are just zoos with bigger enclosures where the animals still are kept against their will in unnatural conditions for them) cause suffering and death for entertainment under the excuse of conservation and education, and this is why vegans do not support them.