Chinese Zoos Ban Feeding Live Animals to Carnivores

BEIJING, China, March 16, 2005 (ENS) - Live horses, calves and oxen will no longer be fed to carnivores in the majority of China's zoos and animal exhibits, at least when visitors are present.

Representatives from 22 of China's 30 animal reserves and zoos meeting Saturday in Kunming agreed that the spectacle of tigers or lions tearing at a live horse has a negative psychological effect on visitors.

Delegates to the meeting signed an agreement that their carnivores will be fed only carcasses or pieces of meat when visitors are watching.

All of the reserves and zoos that ratified the agreement have links to the state. Any facilities that break the pledge will lose their operating licenses.


This lion is in residence at the Beijing Zoo. (Photo credit unknown)
The live animal feedings have been a popular attraction for visitors, but animal welfare groups and parents have been upset by the bloody scenes.

Research on zoo feeding sessions with live prey by teachers and students from four Beijing universities reported by the "South China Morning Post" found that while numbers of visits peaked at feeding times, many visitors were distressed by the sufferings of the prey animals.

The researchers cited an incident in Harbin in northeast Heilongjiang province when a tearful young zoo visitor reacted to a dying ox twitching on the ground after being bitten by more than 10 tigers. "Why hasn't anyone tried to save it? Why is everyone ignoring it?" the child asked his mother.

But some of the reserve and zoo directors who signed the agreement said the new policy would make it harder for them to survive financially.

"If we have no money, it'll be impossible for us to continue," an unnamed park director was quoted by Yunnan media as saying.

Animal protection groups were pleased with the agreement. Zhang Li of the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Chinese branch said, "We welcome the passing of the industry agreement and hope animal welfare protection will also become enshrined in mainland law."

Beijing is revising the 1988 Wild Animal Protection Law to add animal welfare sections, but no date for release of the revisions has been made public.

When the animal parks are not open, feeding of live prey to the lions, tigers, leopards and bears will still be allowed.