London Zoo has retired its alcohol-fuelled Friday night Zoo Late parties in favour of more sedate, family-friendly events.
The move follows the Guardian revealing last year that sources at the zoo were concerned at the impact of visitors’ rowdy behaviour on animals after a series of incidents including a man pouring a beer over a tiger.
The revelations prompted a series of petitions signed by tens of thousands of people calling on the zoo to end the parties, and an investigation by Westminster council.
The new format, rebranded as Sunset Safaris, begins this Friday. Unlike the previous events, the gorilla kingdom, one of the zoo’s main attractions, will be off-limits to visitors due to the birth of a baby gorilla. The Guardian last year saw crowds at a Zoo Late event in the gorilla area shouting beneath a sign asking visitors to be quiet.
The zoo said the events manager who oversaw the Zoo Lates resigned in November last year, though the Guardian understands she was sacked. Sources at the zoo who raised the initial alarm over the evenings said they were “delighted” and the change of format “speaks volumes”.
However, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said the move was not enough. Elisa Allen, the group’s associate director, said: “The fact that animals in zoos have no way of escaping their day-to-day confinement is bad enough, but allowing visitors in the zoo outside normal business hours interrupts the animals’ usual sleep schedule and can cause them fear, distress and even physical harm.
“Whether they call them Zoo Lates or Sunset Safaris, London Zoo has made it perfectly clear that it doesn’t give a monkey’s about the individuals in its ‘care’.” The zoo denies the events impact on animal welfare.
Zoo Lates were marketed an as “after party with the animals” and attracted a young party crowd including hen parties and hundreds dressed in animal onesies. “Thought the zoo was for kids?” one article sponsored by the zoo said under the headline of “Release your wild side”, outlining the specially-chosen wines on offer.
By contrast, the Sunset Safaris are advertised as for “friends, couples, and families alike invited to experience the magic of the zoo after-hours” and invite visitors to hear “tales from the field” by the zoo’s conservationists. Alcohol will still be sold at the events.
A spokeswoman for Zoological Society of London said the changes were part of a regular review of its events to ensure it was delivering new experiences for visitors: “Zoo Lates was an incredible success, but after five years was due for review and we’re now looking forward to our new series of summer events, including Sunset Safari.”
The incidents at the former Zoo Lates parties included a man stripping off and attempting to enter the penguin pool, forcing staff to intervene, and unconfirmed reports that a drunken woman tried to enter the lion enclosure. One group on a night out cracked the glass on a snake enclosure, forcing the snakes to be moved.
The RSPCA, Peta and five other animal charities wrote to the zoo’s director last year asking him to shut down Zoo Lates as they were threatening animal welfare.
Westminster city council, which licenses the zoo, investigated the parties but later cleared them, finding “no evidence of any animal welfare implications as a result of the Zoo Lates events”.
The events are an important source of fundraising to pay for the pioneering conservation work by the world’s oldest zoo, raising £800,000 a year. The Sunset Safaris run each Friday until 17 July.
Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/04/london-zoo-scraps-zoo-late-parties
Hand-reared owls are going on display at a pop-up cafe in a former London art gallery. The sell-out show in aid of owl conservation seeks to educate “London urbanites” about these normally reclusive birds of prey. But is it ethical?
Demand has far outstripped supply and more than 81,000 people entered a ticket ballot, causing the website to crash, when the final set of tickets was released for sale on Tuesday.
However, 29,700 people signed an online petition imploring council authorities to revoke the gallery’s entertainment licence on the grounds it would be “cruel and cause considerable stress to the birds involved”.
The event is entirely legal but is it ethical? Should we be using animals as our source of entertainment, even in the name of education and preservation?
The Annie the Owl pop-up cafe, which is running for five nights, was originally meant to be held in Soho, central London. However, following threats from animal rights activists it had to be moved to a secret venue.
The RSPCA has said it has serious concerns for the welfare of any owls used in a bar or cafe environment.
Owls are shy and reclusive by nature and “generally don’t like to be handled or stroked and can find this very stressful,” the charity’s wildlife scientist Dr Ros Cubb said.
However, event organiser Seb Lyall said he was raising awareness about the species.
“Welfare is our highest priority and the handlers are in control at all times,” he said. “That is why we changed our venue, we took on board people’s concerns and found somewhere bigger with an outdoor terrace. I’m not making any money out of this, we’re making a loss, but not everything is for money. This is an opportunity for people in London to learn about these incredible birds and experience nature which they might not otherwise do if they don’t leave the city.”
In many ways this show is much better for the owls than the country fairs they are normally taken to or the boisterous school visits they participate in, Mr Lyall argues.
“School children are very noisy and they will touch the owls. Our guests will only be allowed to touch the owls if the handler allows them to. I’ve been working with them for a month and they tell me ‘their babies [the owls] will be more happy here’.”
Mr Lyall said he was donating all profits to an owl conservation project. On the face of it this sounds like a positive contribution – except hand-reared owls are not regarded as endangered.
On the contrary there are too many born in captivity and the law prevents them from being released into the wild, Vincent Jones director of the Barn Owl Centre, in Gloucestershire, said.
“[The Annie the Owl event] is tagging on to this appetite for wildlife displays in an uneducated way,” he said.
Of course the idea of using live animals as entertainment in bars and cafes is not entirely new. Tokyo has a selection of owl cafes, one called Fukuro no Mise – or Shop of Owls – is particularly popular and has a two-month waiting list.
In east London, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium – a cafe featuring live-in cats – has also proved very popular. There are also plans for more pop-up cafes featuring dogs and micro-pigs elsewhere in London.
There is no denying the Annie the Owl event has captured people’s imaginations and many are looking forward to their pop-up experience.
Jamie Carey, 24, from north London, who has got a ticket, said the idea of being able to “experience owls and interact with them” was very exciting.
“I think it’ll be a fun engaging way for owl knowledge and admiration to spread. I’m hoping people don’t think it is an excuse to get drunk and take a selfie with some owls for a few Instagram likes though.”
He said he had loved owls ever since his childhood in Ireland.
“They were in outdoor displays but kept in large cages at night and I was able to hold them under supervision and stroke them. Owls love to be petted.”
Hawk Board, which represents falconers and bird of prey keepers in the UK, says while it is not impossible for the event to be done sensitively and to benefit birds of prey, it still has reservations.
“You can always go to Regent’s Park if you want to see owls in London or the Zoological Society of London to observe these animals in an environment that is much closer to their natural habitat,” said its chairman Dr Gordon Mellor.
“My concern with the cafe is the emphasis still feels like it’s on entertainment rather than education and held inside a cafe of whatever dimensions sounds a little-bit circus-like. Against that it is not breaking any laws.”
On the 19th February, The League Against Cruel Sports will host ‘Foxycology’; an evening of talks exploring the ecology of rural and urban foxes and offering humane solutions to human/fox conflicts.
No other native British mammal divides opinion as deeply as the red fox. To many, they are beautiful and adaptable animals who provide a connection to the fast disappearing natural world.
Sadly, those who want to persecute foxes for fun or fortune tell a different story. They often demonise foxes and exaggerate their impact on ecosystems and livelihoods.
The League believe the evidence does not support the vilification of this iconic British species and that a better understanding of fox ecology and behaviour can help people co-exist peacefully with them. Foxycology is Dedicated to challenging the misconceptions surrounding foxes and promoting tolerance of this essential native species, the event will be hosted by Bill Oddie, OBE.
Speakers will include:
Dr Dawn Scott, University of Brighton
Trevor Williams, the Fox Project
Dr Toni Shephard, League Against Cruel Sports
John Bryant, Humane Urban Wildlife Deterrence
Dr Jennifer Smart, RSPB
Date: February 19th 2015
Venue: Fyvie Hall: University of Westminster, 309 Regent St, London. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus
Tickets: £15 each, £10 for League members
To buy tickets for this exciting event, visit: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/foxycology-tickets-15005654316
The horrific annual dolphin slaughter in Japan continues to garner international outrage, and rightly so. Every year, pods of dolphins are corralled into a tiny cove in Taiji, where they are slaughtered in front of their relatives who are forced to continue swimming in their blood. The ‘lucky’ ones (although that term is debatable) are shipped off to aquariums such as the increasingly controversial Sea World, to be forced to perform tricks for unsuspecting fee-paying tourists.
This yearly blood bath is truly heartbreaking. Every single year we’re subjected to more pictures and footage of Japanese dolphin captors butchering their carcasses in the most inhumane, barbaric ways. The trauma, pain and fear the dolphins fear is palpable and quite why Japan refuses to do anything about this despite worldwide condemnation is mind boggling.
Despite countless pleas to the Japanese government by politicians, celebrities, members of the public and even ex-dolphin hunters, they continue to stick their fingers in their ears and their bloodied hands in the water, all for the sake of the almighty power they most follow: money.
Well, people are starting to say enough is enough. And this year for the first time, a group of protesters from a range of charities and pressure groups will come together in London on January 17th to send a strong, clear message to Japan right outside their own embassy. Over a thousand people are expected to attend and show the Japanese people that the world isn’t going to sit back and accept this, no matter how much they try and hide or deny what they’re clearly doing.