Friday 20 May 2016 | 0

Zoos in China: One Voice’s investigation

Our investigations into Chinese zoos have revealed appalling cruelty. In the run up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 we exposed what goes on in Chinese zoos. We set a team of specialist investigators to eight zoos and what they saw and filmed there reduced these experienced professionals to tears.

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Our investigations into Chinese zoos have revealed appalling cruelty.

In the run up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 we exposed what goes on in Chinese zoos. We set a team of specialist investigators to eight zoos and what they saw and filmed there reduced these experienced professionals to tears.

They witnessed the misery that animals endure day in, day out, in conditions that can only be described as from the Dark Ages. On a daily basis, wild animals are tormented, humiliated, abused and cruelly treated for public entertainment.

The conditions most animals endure there are shocking. They have small, bare enclosures with concrete floors and some didn't even have access to drinking water. Many were housed individually, starving them of even basic companionship, and had no access to shade or a place to hide from view.

In one case, children paid £2 each to dangle live chickens on bamboo sticks above the lions in Badaling Zoo. The terrified birds desperately tried to flee as the lions jumped up to snatch them.

At the Tiger Mountain Village near Guilinin in South East China, live cows were left in the tiger enclosures so that they could be stalked by the tigers for the enjoyment of visiting crowds. In the zoo's own restaurant, visitors can order tiger steaks, bear paws and wine made from crushed tiger bones. Astonishingly, the zoo's bosses boasted that they had a staggering 140 dead tigers in their freezers ready to be eaten.

In Qingdao zoo, east of Badaling, tortoises are deliberately pelted with coins because it is believed that if you hit a tortoise's head with a coin, you will be granted a wish. To make it easier for those taking part, elastic bands are wrapped around the tortoises' heads so that they are unable to pull their heads inside their shells to protect themselves.

Many of the zoos we visited also had in-house shows in which the animals were forced to perform tricks. In one – the 'Animal Olympics'– clothed chimpanzees, bears forced to walk on their hind legs, and a goose pulling a cart of tiger cubs, were paraded around a mock race track.

This was followed by 'bear boxing', in which two moon bears in boxing gloves were forced to take punches at each other while their trainers stood close-by with metal spikes in case they needed encouragement. The audience sat laughing as they watched.

After our investigations in China, we immediately contacted a Chinese animal protection organisation called ACTAsia and we have been working in partnership with them ever since.

Together, we are working hard to change attitudes towards animals in China and other parts of the world so that future generations have respect and empathy for animals. We believe this is best achieved by supporting local organisations with financial support, practical help, campaigns and educational resources where needed.

For example, we help fund ACTAsia's Caring for Life programme which teaches Chinese primary school children to care about and appreciate animals. So far, the programme has reached almost 14,000 children.

One Voice is totally opposed to zoos and believes that wild animals belong in the wild.

We believe it is wrong to keep wild animals in captivity and that it simply isn't possible to provide adequate enclosures for them. Many zoos try to justify what they do by saying they help conservation and educate the public but the reality is that very few contribute anything to conservation or education.

We strongly believe that wild animals have the right to live in freedom in their own natural habitats. That's why we help fund animal sanctuaries where animals that have been kept in zoos and circuses can be rehabilitated and then, where possible, returned to the wild.

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