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article imageAnimals in Chinese zoos and parks fed live meals Special

By Lynn Curwin     Aug 11, 2010 in World
Carnivores in Chinese zoos and wildlife parks are commonly fed live prey, often as a form of entertainment for the public.
Animals being given the live meals include big cats, bears and hyenas. The animals being fed to them include goats, rabbits, horses, cattle, and various forms of poultry.
Animals Asia reported that predators are sometimes forced to go without food prior to shows so that they will be more aggressive and put on a more spectacular show. Some prey animals are placed in with carnivores several times before they are killed.
Members of the public are sometimes encouraged to “buy” the prey animals and then allowed to dangle live chickens and other animals into the predators' enclosure on the ends of ropes or fishing lines.
“Live feeding still takes place at a number of safari parks across China but it is not as common as animal performances,” said David Neale, Animals Asia’s animal welfare director. “I do not know how many parks carry out the practice.”
When the Environment and Animals Ethics Group (EAEG) visited parks in 2003-2004 they found that 12 of the 18 with predators practiced some form of live feeding as a public spectacle.
As far back as 1999, Chinese authorities issued a statement stating that live feeding as entertainment would be banned.
Neale said that, in 2005, 22 parks and zoos agreed to ban live feeding due to the negative psychological effects on visitors.
In 2006 Wang Wei, the deputy director of the state forestry administration said “the government will put an end to such activities as shows of feeding beasts of prey with live animals, regulate and standardize animal performances in circuses.”
In 2007 Cao Qingyao, of the forestry administration issued a statement saying: “Performances that include feeding live animals to wild beasts must be stopped. Forestry authorities will heavily penalize all relevant departments and institutions that organize these kind of performances”
But the practice continues.
“I have visited a number of the parks which agreed to ban the practice in 2005,” said Neale. “Some have stopped while others carry on doing it.”
Park managers claim that live feeding provides training for predators which will be released into the wild, but the animals at these facilities are not destined to be released. Many of them are species which are not even native to China.
Animals Asia points out that feeding domestic livestock would not prepare animals for release anyway. It would only teach them to hunt domestic animals, which would result in conflict with farmers – and likely death for the predator.
Animals fed to captive carnivores cannot escape so animals are unable to learn skills such as stalking and chasing.
“I think the government is under pressure to end the practice,” added Neale. “An article calling for such a ban has been included in the draft animal protection legislation being presented to the government this month but I am afraid I have no idea if they are likely to instigate a ban in the near future. I would be very surprised if they did.”
People are urged to contact the Chinese government and encourage them to implement legislation to protect animals from abuse, and to outlaw live-animal feeding. Letters can be sent to the Chinese Ambassador at the main embassy in the writer’s country. Addresses for European embassies can be found at the Travel China Guide.
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