By Sam Threadgill, Director

Following an announcement by Boris Johnson on Wednesday, a number of zoos and safari parks across England are set to reopen on 15th June. This will only apply to outdoor exhibits, as indoor enclosures will continue to remain closed and will not apply to centres in Scotland and Wales.

Zoos and aquaria throughout the UK have recently faced severe financial difficulties, having been forced to close their doors over the lockdown period. Some, such as Tropiquaria in Somerset and Borth Wild Animal Kingdom in Ceredigion, even threatened euthanasia of their animals. Zoos are no strangers to killing the animals supposedly held in their care, for example, European zoos cull an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 animals per year simply for being 'surplus' or for having the wrong genes for breeding. The line has been spun that funds are required to help zoos 'continue to care' for their animals, yet the responsibility for why these animals are facing such a predicament lies with the zoos themselves. Simply put, they should not have been put in this position in the first place.

We are currently reassessing what we value within society and what type of society we want to see in the future. Considerable thought must be brought to the very concept of zoos and whether they have any place in a more environmentally aware and compassionate future. If we are serious about improving the lives of animals, the answer must be that they do not. Zoos belong to a bygone era when exploiting the natural world and its inhabitants for public entertainment was almost universally viewed as acceptable. But this is no longer the case.

The lockdown has made us all acutely aware of the hardships of being confined to one's house for such an extended period of time. Although the past few months of lockdown have been extremely hard, we know that there is a good reason for doing so; to save lives. The same cannot be said, however, for those thousands of animals who find themselves confined to zoo enclosures. They do not know why they must endure a lifetime of captivity. After all, there is no good reason.

Zoos must not be allowed to carry on exploiting their animals indefinitely and should commit to cease breeding, and adopt a strategy of winding down, involving rehoming and rewilding their animals. The science demonstrates that zoo enclosures can never provide adequate environments to meet all of the diverse and specific needs of wild animals. The government has championed itself on being serious about animal welfare, however, a government truly committed to animal welfare would recognise the need for a phasing out of zoos and aquaria and instead ramp up resources for in situ conservation projects.

There are many ways to rekindle a relationship with nature and our environment that don't involve caging animals. Why not take a trip to your local woodlands or wetlands and discover the delights of seeing species living wild and free on our doorsteps?

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