Last week, video footage emerged of a local rugby team playing tug of war with a lion at Dartmoor Zoo in Devon, UK.
Marketed as “human vs beast”, visitors as young as eight-years-old are given the opportunity to pull a rope running underneath a gate into the enclosure of a big cat, which has a chunk of meat attached to the other end, enticing the animal to bite and pull back. The ‘experience’ costs £15 per person although it is not advertised on the zoo’s website raising animal welfare concerns.
The zoo describe the practise as important in keeping their animals fit and healthy, and takes place for “enrichment purposes”. It’s owner, Benjamin Mee, said that “People are making a fuss about nothing… the lions love it.”
However, animal charity RSPCA said that “We understand that the zoo feels this will provide physical enrichment for these big cats but there are many alternative ways of doing this and we feel it should not be marketed for public entertainment and that this activity does not promote respect for animals.”
When I put this controversial topic in a poll to the people of Twitter, 64% agreed that this activity was a disrespectful gimmick as opposed to essential enrichment (based on 103 votes).
What do you think? To check out the video for yourself, click here, and then let me know in the comments below.