A safari park in the UK has come under fire for supposedly culling “surplus” animals indiscriminately and leaving their carcasses in trash cans.
The park (read: zoo) is the Knowsley Safari Park near Liverpool, a tourist attraction that claims to be “especially concerned” with the welfare of their animals. Recently it has come under fire because a long-time employee reported gruesome information about the park’s animal culling practices to authorities.
Penny Boyd was a photographer for the park who resigned after seeing animals culled because their numbers exceeded what the park required to entertain visitors. The culling was allegedly done by untrained staff who sometimes had to shoot animals as many as three times to kill them. After being culled, the animals were allegedly dumped haphazardly in or next to trash cans.
Predictably, the general manager of the park says that none of the animals seen in the pictures released by Boyd are of animals that were culled and accused Boyd of staging the pictures. He insists all animals pictured died of natural causes or were put down by vets.
Among the animals that Boyd photographed was a critically endangered deer. Presumably, if this animal was in fact culled either by accident or intentionally then the zoo was not charged with the crime. The authorities found only two violations in their investigation: that carcasses were not properly disposed of and that the staff required firearms training.
The main people involved in this story, both Penny Boyd and the general manager of Knowsley, acknowledge as a given that animals should be confined in zoos to be gawked at by tourists. They also both assert that “surplus” animals – animals beyond what those needed to entertain humans – may have to be killed. Their viewpoints are remarkably similar; despite the fact that they disagree about the facts of this case, they both in principle agree with culling animals but disagree on methods.
The fact that the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums praised Knowsley for its excellent animal welfare standards shows that even the most horrific practices of the animal entertainment industry can be overlooked by the organizations whose ostensible responsibility it is to oversee these kinds of problems.
The truth is that minor disagreements over welfare policy aren’t going to change the larger problem. The real problem is that animals are viewed as products, property to be disposed of in whatever manner is convenient when they have outlived their usefulness. The incidents at Knowsley can’t be viewed as aberrations; they are the natural occurrences in a culture that views animals’ lives as disposable, to be unceremoniously tossed into a garbage can for the crime of being “surplus.”
Animals do not exist for our entertainment anymore than they exist for our consumption. As much as I praise people like Boyd for bringing problems like this to the attention of the public, these instances must be seen as symptomatic and not aberrant. She is wrong to think that animal exploitation is inevitable and culling animals is a justifiable extension of animal entertainment that can be made “humane” if done properly.
The only real answer is to end the exploitation of animals for any purpose: entertainment, food, clothing, research.