15th April 2020

Yet another bird of prey centre in Kent has been exposed by Freedom for Animals for operating without a licence.

Following a Freedom of Information request to Sevenoaks District Council, it was revealed that Willow’s Bird of Prey Centre, based in Knockholt has neither an Animal Activities Licence nor a zoo licence. Despite this, the company has continued to keep and exhibit their captive birds, meaning that it is believed to have been illegally operating for around a year (since April 2019). Within that period, Willow’s advertised ‘hands-on sessions’ for children as well as ferret racing and owl handling. Due to the fact that the centre is open to the public for more than seven days per year, Freedom for Animals believes that Willow’s meets the criteria for being a zoo under the Zoo Licensing Act and should be required to obtain a zoo licence.

This shocking discovery comes just weeks after it was found that Sky Birds of Prey, located near Tunbridge Wells, had been exhibiting their captive birds without any required licence for at least ten months.

Freedom for Animals' Director, Sam Threadgill, said;

The extent to which the cruel falconry industry has escaped scrutiny is now becoming clear. It is these wild birds, living captive in small enclosures and tied down for hours on end, who are suffering as a result.

Thousands of birds of prey are currently suffering in zoos throughout the UK. In a recent investigation, 74% of birds were found to be permanently tethered except when flown for very short periods of time or moved for husbandry.

Last week saw Zoo Awareness Weekend take place, as members of the public protested against the use of owls and other birds for entertainment as part of Freedom for Animals’ Tether and Torment campaign.

Whilst licensing offers makes sure these centres are inspected and offers some regulations to help avoid the worst suffering, no licence will ever truly protect those birds suffering within bird of prey centres. As such, Freedom for Animals is committed to seeing an end of cruel bird of prey zoos.