Barrow Borough Council in Dalton-on-Furness, Cumbria, England, have been investigating Safari Zoo Cumbria after the anti-captivity organisation Born Free claimed to have found problems when it investigated the zoo in 2022. The landlord of the zoo premises, Zoo Investment Company (ZIC), also raised concerns about animals’ food and water.

Born Free said it visited the zoo on 17th October 2022 after receiving “multiple public reports of concern”. The animal protection organisation — a founder of which, Virginia McKenna, was recently awarded a Damehood —said the zoo “continues to fail to meet” even “basic standards of animal welfare”, even after being taken over by a new owner in 2017 (after many complaints had been raised).

On 17th November, Ivor Churcher, a council inspector, undertook an inspection of the zoo together with Dr Matthew Brash, the council’s professional veterinary advisor. Their report said rodents had been found in “multiple areas” at the site and those rhinos spent a “significant proportion” of their time in restricted stables. Dr Brash concluded that “a safe and effective programme” for pest and vermin control needed to be established.

However, the report also said the animal enclosures had been maintained in a way that “appears to meet the secretary of state’s standards of modern zoo practice” and that animals requiring medical attention had received “appropriate levels of care in a timely manner”. The existence of standards in any zoo licensing system may create the illusion that once met, animals will be happy being kept in captivity and being exhibited to the public. Nothing can be further from the truth, as keeping wild animals in captivity for life always generates problems, no matter the level of care given, as captivity in zoos always implies a reduction of stimuli, space, and choice, for every animal, which over time will create animal welfare problems (and even severe psychological problems often lumped together under the term “zoochosis”). This is why ethical vegans do not support zoos.  

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Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.