Evidence released today confirms that many, if not most, of Europe’s zoos are failing to meet European standards and adequately care for their animals.
On the basis of these latest findings, more European citizens can now hold their governments accountable for failing to fully meet their legal obligations and guaranteeing the welfare of animals in zoos.
The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, an extensive independent investigation into the licensing and performance of zoos across the EU, has revealed systemic failures by governments and enforcement agencies to ensure that zoos satisfactorily address species conservation, education and animal care.

At a meeting in the European Parliament, Brussels, the Born Free Foundation and ENDCAP, the organisations behind the EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, announced the publication of four more Country Reports, part of a series of 21 which, when complete, will provide perhaps the most accurate and comprehensive ‘health check’ of zoo regulation, enforcement agency competency and Member State compliance to date. All fourteen reports (Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, France, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium and Poland) can be viewed at www.euzooinquiry.eu.

The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 was initiated and executed by the international wildlife NGO, the Born Free Foundation, on behalf of the European coalition ENDCAP. It independently evaluates the degree to which EC Directive 1999/22 (relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos) has been implemented and enforced, its transposition into national law, how that national law has been applied in each Member State, and the performance of zoos in relation to their legal requirements.

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 explained; “Our investigations over the last eighteen months have confirmed that many zoos across the European Community are not meeting their obligations as required by European and national law. As a result, zoos are failing to take the necessary measures to help conserve biodiversity and millions of animals are still kept in sub-standard conditions in thousands of zoos.  ENDCAP member organisations and compassionate European citizens rightly regard this as totally unacceptable.”

Turner continued; “In the European Union, regulation of zoos and the protection of wild animals in captivity is the responsibility of Member States and relies upon the will, knowledge, experience and available resources they apply. Far from harmonising operational minimums and welfare standards this has resulted in enormous variations, as many countries do not have the capacity to effectively comply with and enforce these requirements. Without the intervention and assistance of the European Community, these shortcomings are likely to persist.”

Since 2005, all zoos in the majority of EU Member States have been required to implement the EC Directive 1999/22 and, through a process of licensing and inspection, comply with a series of community-wide measures such as the conservation of biodiversity, public education and the application of minimum animal welfare standards.

Although the majority of Member States have attempted to transpose the Directive effectively, resulting national laws often lack detailed provisions relating to educational and scientific activities, guidance on adequate animal care, licensing and inspection procedures, as well as clear strategies for dealing with animals in the event of zoo closure. This is likely to be as a direct consequence of the relatively ambiguous language of the Directive itself which has caused inconsistencies in interpretation.

Speaking today, Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation recognised the need for action: “In an effort to address these deficiencies at Member State level, the Born Free Foundation and ENDCAP Member NGOs are assisting national governments in the development of work plans and the identification of measures that will lead to significant improvements in key areas such as welfare, inspection, education and conservation.”

The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 has already prompted a commitment from the European Commission, specifically concerning the provision of veterinary training in animal welfare and the future development of a best practice code for zoo regulation and operation.

Bill Newton Dunn MEP, co-sponsor of the Parliament Briefing to be held this afternoon, said, “A truly civilised society is when animals are treated properly. That is what I want to see throughout Europe. Born Free’s EU Zoo Inquiry and the European Parliament are vital to ensuring this goal is achieved.“