Tuesday, June 6

A call to mobilize against the business of zoos

The ZOOXXI Platform has been working for more than ten years to achieve the conversion of zoos. One of the highlights of this work was the modification of the Barcelona Animal Protection Ordinance, in 2019, with a new article that entails a complete conversion of the zoo in this city. But what is the current outlook? It could be summed up as discouraging.

ZOOXXI has filed a contentious-administrative appeal for the City Council to comply with the Ordinance, since the Barcelona Zoo continues to be the usual zoo, but with good marketing. Not only that, the State Law for the Protection of Animal Rights and Welfare received an own goal when prozoan lobbyists managed to include an amendment that shields cetacean shows in zoos. Zoos and aquariums are a business, and their mobilization to get this amendment shows that they are a powerful business.

Last March, ZOOXXI highlighted the lack of technical and scientific rigor in the million-dollar installation for orangutans at Barcelona Zoo:

The zoo’s response to our public complaint was the same as always: denying the majority to say that the animals are perfectly fine, that they have various rooms while the works are in progress, that all procedures are endorsed by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and that experts in primates guarantee their well-being. Response in which the zoo, as usual, does not provide a single test, document or protocol that justifies said statements.

ZOOXXI has gone to the zoo again. In this new video you can see the current situation of orangutans:

The orangutans not only still cannot access the outdoor facilities, but the calf that was born in May of last year practically the only thing it knows is the confinement and the noise of the works. Public behavior only makes the situation worse. Where is that that the zoo is educational? The blows on the glass of the orangutan due to the stress generated by the visitors are eloquent. The situation of the calf, which should be learning all kinds of natural behaviors, is unworthy. The fact that the works include the construction of a plant canopy, because the sun reflects and prevents the public from seeing the orangutans even better in their indoor facilities, reveals that the maximum interest of the Barcelona Zoo is the exhibition of its animals .

But we go even further, because the situation of gorillas and chimpanzees is not much better. ZOOXXI Platform anticipates that the following public complaints will be about the situation of these animals and that, given the powerful marketing of the Barcelona Zoo, it will continue to explain to the public the reality of the animals, whose situation has not changed since 2019. We are obliged to do so in the face of the flagrant violation of the regulations by the City Council, but also in the face of the neglect of all political parties.

Even in this pre-election period, no party seems to lose sleep over having wild animals in deplorable conditions in their own city, not even those who voted in favor of the amendment to the Ordinance. Of course, neither are universities and other institutions that use zoo animals.

Adapting to a planet that is changing as our species has never experienced before inexorably leads us to change our relationship with other species. After centuries of display, only a leap of faith can accept that seeing animals locked up is of any use. The argument that justifies locking up and exhibiting individuals of a species as a formula to raise money to finance projects for the conservation of that same species in freedom lacks any rationality. The definitive argument – that zoos guard genes of species that are endangered in nature – to justify the breeding, exchange and life in captivity of millions of animals that will never be reintroduced into their natural habitats, does not hold up either, let alone on a planet whose ecosystems are going to undergo a transformation that we are unable to predict.

Zoos are the paradigm of human contradiction. If many people fall into this contradiction, it is because zoos have something that fascinates our species: wild animals. “Something” no, I should say “someone”, because each individual locked up in a zoo is “someone”. Anyone who doubts this, I encourage you to consult the Cambridge Statement on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals.

There is an urgent need for joint action by entities, primatological associations, NGOs, organized civil society and individuals. Although the Ordinance goes further, and we have been through the courts for months to try to enforce it, let’s press right now on something on which, I have no doubt, we are all in agreement and could be done immediately: zoos must stop to exhibit the great apes. Article 33 quater of the Barcelona Animal Protection Ordinance is a first step in this direction: “The Zoo enclosures and facilities will be adapted to guarantee the most advanced health, animal welfare and safety measures, prioritizing interests of the animal to the detriment of its display”.

Stopping great apes on display is not only beneficial for these animals, but carries a profound educational message. The current model of zoos anchors us to the past and is a brake on the imperious and urgent need that humans have as a species to rethink our relationship with nature. Zoos must be converted.

As much as the Barcelona Zoo talks about a new model and strategic plan, the large number of exotic species it houses perpetuates the colonial and supremacist role of our species, in terms that contribute to the current accelerated destruction of the planet. The current zoos are not the solution, they are the problem.

We must organize ourselves to demand, as a first step, the end of the great ape exhibit.


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