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Tuesday, 27 August 2013 00:00

Life's no hoot for poor zoo animals

What London Zoo's annual animal weigh-in (M Star August 22) fails to measure is the physical and mental suffering that wild animals experience as a result of a lifetime spent in captivity.

Denied everything that's natural and important to them, animals in zoos have every aspect of their lives manipulated and controlled. It is decided for them when they will eat, when they can sleep, who they can mate with and when they can go outside. Even at the best zoos, animals are not kept in normal social or family groups. Habitats are usually tiny compared to their range or homelands and inhibit natural behaviour such as running and scavenging.

The animals' frustrations lead to abnormal, neurotic and even self-destructive behaviour now recognised as "zoochosis."

Zoos may still claim to educate the public, but a study in Buffalo, New York, showed that visitors were often indifferent to the animals, rushing past the cages quickly and only stopping to look at baby animals or those who were begging, feeding or making sounds.

If anything, they leave with the reinforced idea that it is still acceptable to capture, cage and confine other living beings just because we can.

There is nothing inspiring about seeing bored and depressed animals stripped of all but their dignity. Zoos began as menageries when few people travelled to exotic places, before we had wildlife videos and before we learned who animals really are. We no longer have any excuse for keeping intelligent social animals locked up, thousands of miles from their homes.

Kirsty Henderson

London SW11

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