11th June 2024

Animals in zoos and aquariums already have a tough life. They are incarcerated often from birth, and denied the opportunity to satisfy their natural instincts to hunt, forage, migrate, and choose their own mates. Zoos attempt to justify this by claiming that it is necessary for ‘conservation’, however, these animals will never make it to the wild, have no impact on wild populations, and most species aren’t even endangered in the wild. Zoos and aquariums are simply entertainment venues in which living, feeling individuals are exploited to generate revenue, and nowhere is this more evident than in the swathe of late night events we see every summer.

When you are an animal confined to a zoo or aquarium, being on display to the public is placed above your own needs. You are a piece of scenery, you are an object required to generate ticket sales, and your life is not your own. Every day you must endure the confusing and stressful ordeal of having queues of visitors file past and stare at you. They will linger for a few minutes at a time and then move on, they get to go home after a few hours, but your entire life will be controlled and confined to fund this attraction. The only respite you get is at the end of the day when the gates close for the night before it all has to begin again tomorrow. But this time of year, zoos regularly keep the gates open well into the night. There is no escaping the prying eyes of the paying public.

At Freedom for Animals we have been keeping a close eye on this sickening trend for many years. In the summer of 2016 we caught staff at Bristol Zoo on camera, stating that the animals were stressed by the noise and activity of their late night events. But, eight years later, they continue to put their profits ahead of the animals’ well being and are planning four late night events this summer. Imagine being a lion, trapped in an enclosure so much smaller than your natural habitat should be, exposed to an escalation of the noise and chaos you face every day, and having no way of getting out of that environment. The lions at Bristol Zoo were seen pacing up and down, a clear sign of stress that keepers showed no intention of addressing or mitigating.

We have also gathered evidence, just last year, of animal suffering at ZSL London Zoo’s late night events. Our investigator witnessed a sea of visitors at the penguin enclosure, some even sticking their hands over the low glass barriers to try and grab the penguins’ attention, and the penguins having nowhere to hide. The event overwhelmingly offered many opportunities to grab an alcoholic beverage, something that fuelled an increase in loud and chaotic behaviour in guests as the evening progressed. This is 10 years after nationwide press reported London Zoo’ alcohol fuelled parties posing risk to animals, including an incident in which a man poured beer over a tiger before being thrown out by staff and one in which a man stripped off and attempted to enter the penguin pool. 

Perhaps in an attempt to pretend that the event was educational rather than recreational, zookeepers also hosted talks at some of the enclosures. Our investigator visited the meerkat talk, in which the keeper explained to the crowd around the tiny mammals that meerkats are abundant in their wild habitats and ranges, and are deemed as a species of least concern. With no hint of shame the keeper explained why they choose to keep such species in captivity: “Because they are popular so bring in the crowds.” Zoos are not conservation enterprises, they are businesses, and to fund them is to fund misery.

It has already begun. London Zoo and Hertfordshire Zoo held their first late night openings this weekend. We have identified over 40 events this summer in which zoos and aquariums will open their doors well into the evening. This includes the utterly disgusting plans by Yorkshire Wildlife Park to put on full-scale outdoor pop concerts, featuring the likes of Ella Henderson, Jessie J, and JLS. Shockingly, Sea Life London Aquarium, a venue already facing strong criticism due to our campaign to liberate fifteen gentoo penguins from their windowless basement, are planning two late night events this summer. They really have no shame about the suffering they cause.

Tickets cost between £15 and £35 for late night zoo events, but for the animals the cost is so much higher. It costs them their peace, their dignity, and their only respite from a lifetime of public display. We know of late night events taking place at Bristol Zoo Project, Chester Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Hertfordshire Zoo, London Zoo, Sea Life Great Yarmouth Aquarium, Sea Life London Aquarium, and Yorkshire Wildlife Park - get in touch if you would like to hold a protest at any of these events and we will provide support and free demonstration materials. And if you hear of any others, please let us know!

Stand with us against this exploitation today.

Report late night zoo or aquarium events to us

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Protest against this exploitation