Many zoo animals in the EU are kept in conditions that cause them great stress and suffering. The EU’s zoos are home to millions of animals, but there’s a lack of consistency of standards even in licenced zoos, not to mention in the hundreds of unlicensed and unregulated zoos
Eurogroup for Animals’ member organisations have consistently tried to bring evidence of the suffering of zoo animals to light.
A study by Djurens Rätt in 2017 showed how Swedish zoos fell below the required standard for care, particularly on space requirements, care of hooves and fur, and the keeping of animals in groups. To maintain genetic diversity and free up space, some zoos regularly cull the surplus of animals in their care. This is the fate which befell Marius the giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo.
Some zoos do not recreate or offer the care and conditions required to ensure that wild animals can carry out their natural behaviours. For instance, elephants are social animals and need company, they should not be kept alone. However, this is the case for some elephants such as Flavia, who lived alone at the Cordoba Zoo in Spain for over 40 years. She died in 2019.
Dolphins need space in which to move and hunt, and the tanks in which they live are always seriously inadequate.
In 2019 in Italy, a court found a dolphinarium director and veterinarian guilty of animal abuse, the first court case of this kind won in Europe. These things can happen when Directive 1999/22/EC (the Zoos Directive adopted in 1999) is inconsistently implemented and enforced.
The Directive establishes compulsory and centrally regulated licencing of zoo facilities and mandates that animal welfare is respected as much as possible, as well as establishing zoos’ responsibilities in conservation, but nevertheless there are still unlicensed zoos in EU Member States.