Last week, we revealed that the CAPS Fight for Flight campaign to end the cruel mutilation of birds in zoos had shaken up those zoos and private collections that continue to carry out the barbaric practice of pinioning to hold birds captive. In the same documents, released to us by Government officials, senior zoo industry staff and representatives of private collectors asked Government department, DEFRA, to turn a blind eye to illegal activity, explicitly requesting that no action be taken against those that had been illegally amputating parts of birds’ wings for years.
In the same letter from The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the British Waterfowl Association (BWA) which, we reported last week, highlighted the concerns of bird keepers that CAPS’ campaign may prevent them from holding certain species captive going forward, the signatories asked the Minister to issue a formal statement confirming “DEFRA are of the view that retrospective enforcement action would be inappropriate”.
Whilst the Government Minister responsible for the issue appeared to pointedly ignore this request in his formal response to the letter, it seems the request has, nonetheless, been granted.
To date, no action whatsoever has been taken against those zoos that were exposed last year by CAPS for breaking the law and no attempt has been made to establish the extent of the illegal activity by other zoos and collectors, despite admissions by the zoo industry and private keepers that it had been happening for years. A CAPS spokesperson said that this raises serious concerns over “Government and local authority commitment to animal welfare when balanced against the desire to keep the zoo industry happy”.
In addition, and despite DEFRA advising CAPS to contact the relevant local authorities to ask that action was taken when evidence of illegal pinioning was found, email correspondence between BIAZA and DEFRA showed that the Government department were well aware that nothing was being done when those complaints were subsequently made. One email from BIAZA to DEFRA officials said: “Just to let you know that [council\ inspections have been held at two [Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust\ sites and Banham Zoo and the feedback seems fine”.
Said Liz Tyson, Director of CAPS:
“It is really disappointing. We were specifically told by DEFRA to contact the relevant local authorities to highlight illegal action on this front. To see that the zoo industry has asked DEFRA to turn a blind eye and DEFRA and local authorities seem content to do just that highlights concerns we have raised in the past about the zoo industry’s proximity to both local authorities and central Government. The animals should come first and there should be no opportunity to “opt out” of complying with laws in place to protect them”.