Should zoos be banned? Furious debate breaks out on GMB

Should zoos be banned? Furious debate breaks out on GMB as activist insists no animal should be kept in captivity

  • Good Morning Britain hosts invite Andrew Hall and Mark Cowne on the show  
  • READ MORE: Sir David Attenborough’s Dynasties will NOT return to the BBC as producers plan an ‘expansion’ on series about endangered animals

Good Morning Britain guests have clashed over the future of zoos.

To settle the longstanding debate, Good Morning Britain hosts invited Andrew Hall and Mark Cowne to share their thoughts on whether UK zoos should be celebrated or permanently closed.

Andrew, a representative from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said that opting for a day out at the zoo supports the conservation of hundreds of animals, and said they should be celebrated.

In support of this viewpoint, a survey for Good Morning Britain found that 65 per cent of UK adults don’t believe zoos should be phased out or banned.

But, Mark Cowne, co-founder of Free the Wild, argued that no animal should ever face captivity.

Good Morning Britain hosts invited Mark Cowne (pictured) and Andrew Hall to debate the ethics of zoos 

Five percent of the world’s zoos are in the UK, and Mark recognised that British zoos are ‘some of the better ones in the world’ because they’re ‘quite well policed and maintained’.

However, Mark’s priority is to ‘rescue animals who are being brutalised in zoos for the benefit of human entertainment.’

He drew on the example of an Asian elephant called Lucy, who is homed at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada, where she entertains visitors with her artistic capabilities.

Mark said: ‘Lucy has got immense breathing problems, she’s on her last legs because for many years they’ve been using her to create elephant pictures where she sucks up a large amount of paint through her trunk and blasts it onto a canvas.

‘You have a wonderful picture, but look, it’s her respiratory system. Imagine sticking two litres of paint up your nose in the morning… it’s a very cheap circus trick.’

He added: ‘Animals aren’t supposed to be in captivity, they’re wild animals, they’re supposed to be running free.’

While Mark recognised that zoos do ‘some good work’ trying to preserve endangered species with breeding programmes, he believes that this can lead to more issues because the animals are unable to return to the wild.

He added: ‘The downside [of] breeding in zoos is that animals are having to be euthanised because there’s an overpopulation. Three to five thousand animals are euthanised in European zoos every year because there’s nowhere to put all those animals.’

Andrew Hall (pictured) contended that zoos are ‘sanctuaries’ and ‘havens’ to animals, and therefore, should be celebrated 

On the flipside, Andrew, a representative from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums insisted that zoos are ‘sanctuaries’ and ‘havens’ for animals.

The importance of zoos for Andy lies in the conservation initiatives.

‘There have been 95 species that would be extinct without zoos or aquariums being there,’ he said.

To highlight the importance of zoos, Andrew explained that the institutions are vital to prevent the extinction of certain species.

Andrew said: ‘British zoos are reintroducing 76 species back into our landscape, for example, beavers in London, bisons in Kent, and grass lizards down in Marlow.’

Kate Garraway (left) and Richard Madeley (right) asked guests whether zoos should be celebrated or closed 

Indeed, a baby beaver was spotted in London for the first time in hundreds of years last month, with some speculating it could be the first of its kind born in the capital in centuries.

The new arrival came after Enfield Council began a city-wide beaver reintroduction programme last year in a bid to bring the animals back to the capital after a 400-year hiatus.

In line with the initiative in Enfield, Andrew continued: ‘The point is to commit a lot to conservation, we do 800 conservation projects across 150 countries, and we do that because of the animals we care for.’

Andrew concluded: ‘I think modern good zoos have animal welfare at their heart, and I think increasingly studies are showing that animals, such as elephants, can show a full range of their behaviours when they’re kept really well in zoos.’

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