4th October 2022

It's World Animal Day, so we, at Freedom for Animals, thought it would be the perfect time to shine a light on the incredible individual lives of all animals, and how every single being deserves to live a life of freedom.

In the wild, many animals held in captivity - including tigers, elephants, lions and gorillas - would venture miles each day on the hunt for food and the best forage. Yet in zoos, they are denied this basic instinct, cramped into enclosures that could never mimic their natural environments. They have evolved to perfectly fit their wild surroundings, specifically adapted to mental and physical demands to suit the interactions and necessities of their natural worlds.

Yet zoos and safari parks stifle those wild behaviours, and cause significant health and welfare issues as a result. Wetland birds are pinioned; a brutal procedure which involves severing their wing completely through the bone (typically when still babies) to permenantly disfigure them, prevent escapes and deprive them of the true beauty of flight. Elephants are boxed into tiny enclosures compared to their incredible natural migration routes, denying them the 1000km2-14000km2 they can travel in the wild. Primates are often unable to view the sky without looking through metal fencing, preventing them from escaping and experiencing true freedom in the treetops or bush of their natural rainforest homes. 

Not only are these animals unable to explore the distances and heights their bodies so desperately crave, they are also exposed to human interaction for prolonged periods of time, causing them immense stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Stereotypies classed under the term “zoochosis” are rife in captive animals, and witnessing animals pacing back and forth, head bobbing and self-mutilating is commonplace. These incredibly complex animals are unable to process the unnatural surroundings and experiences their bodies are forced to endure so regularly, and as a result they are driven to madness and regularly display these devastating symptoms.

Bird of prey centres rely on similar tactics to ensure the birds they keep captive do not escape. Their natural instinct to fly through the air and explore huge distances daily for food is completely disregarded. Birds are tethered to posts - some for hours at a time, others permanently - and only allowed to experience any form of flight if they are chosen to be flown in a display where paying visitors are present. They are denied any form of happiness. So desperate are they for escape, tethering is endemic in the industry, as without it birds often launch themselves against their aviaries (prisons), or would make a bid for freedom and fly away from captivity.  The industry will say it is for the birds' safety, but the reality is that the unnatural environments these incredible birds are forced to inhabit is so far from suitable, the falconers have to keep them locked and chained otherwise they would not choose to be there for a second longer.


Looking up at the sky, she feels the urge to feel the wind beneath her wings, the air in her face, the true exhilaration of flight. Every bone in her body was designed for it. For freedom. So she breathes in,and out, and takes off. Crash! She tumbles to the floor, her leg sore and throbbing. She remembers. She cannot take off and soar through the sky any longer. She is chained. There is no escape. 

Liberty is a bald eagle held captive at a bird of prey centre in the UK. She is only able to fly when her captors deem it so, and when there are paying visitors to witness the display. Viewed as a prop for entertainment, not the incredible individual she truly is, she must suffer this torment every day for the rest of her life. No animal deserves such torture. No bird should be chained and denied their right to flight.

Aquariums are underwater zoos and therefore equally devastating to the animals forced to inhabit them. As many as 79% of all aquarium fish are stolen from the wild and sold through the wild animal trade. Many species are acquired through devastating means, either by blast fishing (using explosives to stun fish), or by using sodium cyanide (fisherman spray the toxic substance into the ocean to render animals incapactied and easier to catch). Many individuals do not survive the horrific ordeal, either dying immediately or hours later. And for the ones that do make it, they must then endure the terrifying journey across the world, transported in tiny bags for huge periods of time, before ending up at an aquarium to be imprisioned. Can you imagine the terror at being captured, and ripped away from the life you’ve always known? To live a life of captivity for the rest of your days, away from any familiar surroundings?

The list of species forced to endure this watery prison is vast. A large number of shark and ray species - as well as octopus and squid - who in the wild would travel hundreds of thousands of miles throughout their lifespans, are crammed into spaces that are essentially boxes of water, and exposed to human scrutiny for the majority of their existence. In a previous investigation, FFA exposed the reality of aquarium “stocklists”, with many “missing” animals documented and no explanation as to what happened to them. As many as 20% of species listed in this way are thought to have died or decomposed within their glass prison. And with so many wild animals being continuously sold through the global pet trade to recoup these devastating losses, the cycle of abuse is endless.


Day in, day out, Brenda searches for freedom. Using her incredible limbs she constantly feels for an escape route, but there is no way out. Devastated and driven mad by boredom, she swims to the back of the tank, prepares herself, and launches herself towards the glass. Bang! Over and over again, she bashes her head and whole body against her glass prison before sliding to the floor, desperately trying to rid herself of the pain of captivity. 

Brenda is an octopus housed at Sealife Centre in Brighton. In a previous Freedom for Animals investigation, our investigator filmed her failed attempts at escape, and watched in sadness at the utter despair such a beautiful animal was suffering for no other reason than to provide human entertainment. She deserves better. She deserves freedom, and she fights every day of her life to regain it.

Mobile zoos are smaller scale animal-use establishments that transport animals to schools, children's parties and other events for profit. The industry is under-regulated and poorly licensed, so many animals suffer immensely with no hope of freedom in the future. Forced to live in small enclosures (usually in the business owners house), they are then transported regularly in even smaller containers such as make-shift storage containers with inadequate air holes, or cat carriers, sometimes for hours on end. Reptiles such as lizards and snakes are very widely used; animals who, in the wild, would explore long distances searching for food, making nests or sunbathing to warm their bodies. Every fibre of their being rejects human handling as it’s completely unnatural for their species; with such delicate scales and skin they can suffer immensely from prolonged handling and interaction, especially at events where everyone naturally crowds around to touch.

Many of the animals used in zoos originated from the wild, and have been victim to the exotic pet trade. Their removal from the wild has catastrophic effects not only on conservation and biodiversity, but also the welfare of the individual. They have incredibly specific needs, and these are not able to be met within the environment of a mobile zoo. 

Circus animals continue to suffer within the UK and further afield. Although a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses came into place in 2020, the law does not cover domestic animals, and many individuals, such as horses, llamas, cats, dogs and birds, are being forced to perform to huge crowds on a regular basis. In order to get them to amuse paying visitors in the big top, these animals are forced to endure rigorous training methods (involving unnatural tricks and harsh motivations to obey), long and uncomfortable transportation journeys and temporary accommodation in unnatural surroundings. Many self-harm and develop head bobbing to cope with the stress of a lack of exercise or suitable enclosure. And performing such unnatural behaviours as part of these selfish “acts” causes significant physical and mental harm - such as joint problems and psychological problems. No animal should be used as a prop, or forced to suffer such upheaval and stress, especially in the name of entertainment!

We at Freedom for Animals, will not stop until we see freedom for all animals used in the entertainment industry. 

Ways you can help animals this World Animal Day

This World Animal Day, please pledge your support and click the links below to help animals. 

Take action and sign and share the petition to free Lulu the sea turtle set up by the Close Sealife campaign

Share and share our other actions including one to DEFRA calling for an end to keeping elephants in zoos

Share this blog and our video above on social media

You can donate to help fuel to the fight for an end to the captivity of animals

Become a Freedom Champion and set up a monthly gift to help us better plan for our future campaigns

- 29th September 2022