midiamimesEurope´s failing zoos

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Tiger in a EU zoo (Photo: Born Free Foundation)Six years on from the implementation of the Directive (1999/22/EC), relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos, which aimed to improve standards and influence their objectives towards the conservation of biodiversity, zoos across Europe are still failing to adequately care for their animals.
On 11th November 2008, 20 Non-Governmental Organisations representing 20 European countries, together with Members of the European Parliament and officials from the European Commission, will meet to launch an initiative aimed at improving the lives of millions of wild animals in zoos across Europe.
ENDCAP, a Pan-European coalition of animal welfare experts, will seek to ensure wild animals kept in zoos receive the high level of welfare protection they require.
Evidence collected by ENDCAP member organisations shows that thousands of wild animals kept in captivity are housed in conditions that fail to meet even basic needs: zoos in many European Member States fail to comply with the EU Zoos Directive; circuses, which lack both space and environmental complexity, continue to tour with wild animals through the majority of European countries; dolphins continue to housed in inadequate conditions for circus-style performances that have little conservation or educational value; and numerous wild animals are acquired, many illegally, by private individuals who often lack the necessary husbandry and welfare skills. Wild animals in such circumstances have no pan-European protection and must rely on the varying provisions of national legislation. Sadly, their suffering frequently remains unresolved.
“As a Member of the European Parliament it is clear that my fellow MEPs, together with the European Commission and Member States, have a responsibility to ensure all animals, including wild animals used for display or entertainment, are properly protected and that their welfare needs are met,” said Dr. Caroline Lucas MEP, Vice-President for the Intergroup for Animal Welfare. “More must be done to respond to the legitimate concerns of our electorate by including these animals in the Commission’s Action Plan. I will make this one of my priorities.”
“The Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty (implemented in 1999) recognises vertebrate animals as sentient beings and requires the Community and Member States to consider the needs of animals when deliberating procedures, legislation or services involving animals”, said Daniel Turner, Co-ordinator of ENDCAP, the Pan-European coalition. “Unfortunately this is not directly enforceable.  Evidence suggests that little has been done to ensure this obligation is taken seriously by the European Community and Member States despite the fact that animal welfare consistently features as an issue of great importance for European citizens.”
The only reference to the welfare of animals is the Protocol on the protection and welfare of animals and there is currently no Competence in the EU Treaty specific to animal welfare. Current legislation, and the Commission’s recently published Action Plan, is largely confined to farm animals. Legislation specific to wild animals is minimal, welfare requirements are limited, non-specific or vague, and are always dependent upon the animal’s use, circumstance or conservation status, rather than its specific, inherent needs.
Virginia McKenna OBE, actress and animal advocate, who is travelling to Brussels specifically to support this initiative, reflects, “It should go without saying that we believe the welfare of wild animals in captivity should receive the same attention and concern as animals on farms and in laboratories.  However, that is simply not the case for animals in zoos, circuses and dolphinaria and in the hands of so-called exotic pet owners.  They too feel pain, can be exploited, can suffer.”
The European Community is currently failing to address the aspirations of Europe’s citizens and to ensure all wild animals used in display or entertainment are protected and are guaranteed welfare standards that, at least, meet their basic needs. This ENDCAP conference and the active support of MEPs seeks to make that guarantee a reality.
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Author: ENDCAP