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Minister calls for zoos to be closed

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Minister calls for zoos to be closed

A government minister has called for the phased closure of zoos, claiming that it was “inappropriate to keep wild animals in captivity in this way.”

By Richard Savill
Published: 3:22PM BST 04 Apr 2010

Angela Smith, the charities minister, denounced zoos as "relics of the Victorian era" and said she had received letters from children upset at the conditions in which animals had been kept.

Miss Smith, a patron of the Captive Animals Protection Society campaign group, urged that zoos should be prevented from adding more animals to their collections.

This would represent a first step in phasing out zoos over the next few decades, she added.

The MP for Basildon told a Sunday newspaper that a new Labour government should open talks to start that process after the election.

Zoo managers condemned Miss Smith’s “naïve” comments and said their work inspired children “to connect with the wild.”

Miss Smith said that while some zoos “tried very hard”, it was time to address the question of animal welfare.

She said: "You can understand the Victorians who were amazed by what they saw when these specimens were brought back because they couldn't travel, but now people can travel and they can see animals in amazing films and television documentaries.

"You can't shut down every zoo tomorrow, but we've got to set a point in the future where we don't bring in any more animals, then set another point saying this is the last zoo."

Miss Smith’s call came after the Government said recently that it was “minded” to ban wild animals in circuses.

Responding to Miss Smith’s comments, the Government said it had no plans to close zoos.

The Animal welfare minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, said Miss Smith was expressing her own view, which did not reflect government policy.

"Angela doesn't have responsibility for this area," he said. "We're not going anywhere near zoos."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We have no plans to ban zoos.

"Animal welfare is of the highest importance and ministers have recently announced that they are minded to ban animals in circuses."

David Field, director of London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo, said: “To say stop bringing wild animals into zoos just shows Angela Smith’s incredible naivety about why zoos exist.

“A zoo has an incredible power to connect you directly with nature. It’s unpredictable and different. The animals will react differently all the time.
“It may just be that an animal stands right next to a child, and that is a life-changing moment.”

A London Zoo spokesman added: “We feel Angela Smith is not presenting her interests in a way she should be as charities minister. We think she is displaying personal bias.

“We would happily have her in and show us the conservation work we are doing.”

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