Liam Austin

Zoos embrace landmark animal welfare reforms

Posted: 12th May, 2021

BIAZA, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, has welcomed landmark animal welfare reforms announced by UK Government. The raft of reforms including recognising the sentience of animals and restrictions on animal products such as ivory and shark fins. 

BIAZA, established to improve standards across all aspects of zoos and aquariums, has been a leading voice on animal welfare and in recent years provided leadership on a range of animal welfare issues including the keeping of primates as pets and producing the strongest elephant-care guidelines in the world.  

Yesterday’s queen’s speech set out Government’s intentions to pursue several legislative changes including an Animal Sentience Bill, Kept Animals Bill and Animals Abroad Bill. The reforms include:  

  • Protections for wild animals, including banning primates as pets and funding wildlife conservation projects; 
  • Protections for animals abroad by banning imports of hunting trophies, ivory and shark fins; 
  • Protections for pets and farmed animals including measures to improve the welfare of animals in transport. 

Dr Jo Judge, CEO of BIAZA said: “Good zoos have been at the very forefront of improving the lives of animals across the world in our care and in the wild. We are delighted to have fed into the newest announcements and we look forward to continuing to set the bar for animal welfare.” 

Among the reforms the Animal Sentience Bill will legally recognise the feelings of thousands of animals, including farm animals and pets as well as the animals in zoos and aquariums. This follows decades of research into the intelligence and feelings of animals at zoos and aquariums.  

Judge commented: “The Animal Sentience Bill is a historic reform, and legally recognises what we all know that animals are capable of joy as well as pain. This is clearly evident if you’ve ever seen a herd of elephants enjoying a mud bath or lemurs basking in the sun. BIAZA would like to see this legislation taken further to consider other animals which are currently beyond the remit of this legislation.”

Judge commented: “Together this robust action plan includes vitally important measures that will protect animals here in the UK and further afield. We are particularly pleased to see strengthened bans on ivory and shark fins, something our zoos and aquariums have been educating visitors about for many years and something that underpins our conservation efforts in the field.” 

“We look forward to continue working with Government on making a difference by fighting extinction and ensuring the survival and welfare of species from tiny ants to magnificent sharks”.