Spanish zoos fail to comply with European law

A jaguar lies on its own faeces, built up over the years, in a space not much bigger than its’ body; wolves pace back and forth in a bare concrete yard surrounded by rusting bars; a macaw, kept in a cramped cage, is prevented from ever stretching out its wings: these are just some of the horrors discovered during an investigation into some of Spain’s worst zoos.

Zoos in Spain are failing to comply with European law, which may result in the Spanish Government being taken to the European Court of Justice. Conditions in Spanish zoos are failing to meet European standards, with some appearing to be the worst in Europe, according to a report published today. Animals are kept in some appalling conditions: neglected, malnourished, tormented, drugged and abused.

Spain remains one of the top five holiday destinations for Britons with 50 million holidaymakers visiting Spain from the UK in 2005. The exploitation of wild animals in resorts has always been of a concern to the compassionate tourist: a fact confirmed by Daniel Turner, spokesperson for the Born Free Foundation. “Through Born Free’s ‘Travellers Animal Alert’ campaign, hundreds of letters of concern about captive animal neglect in Spain have been received. It is due to the large number of these reports that Born Free joined forces with two Spanish organisations to assess and expose the conditions in zoos in Spain. Our findings published 25th October 2006 in the UK have revealed that some zoos in Spain are some of the worst in the world and we are committed to seeking improvement.”

“It is our hope that this study will raise greater awareness about animal welfare in Spain and persuade governments to fully implement the law and ensure that all zoos are regularly inspected to meet the legal requirements.”

The Born Free Foundation, together with La Defensa del Patrimoni Natural (DEPANA, in Barcelona) and la Asociación Nacional para la Defensa de los Animales (ANDA, in Madrid) have formed a coalition called InfoZoos. InfoZoos has initially visited and evaluated eight zoos in six regions in Spain as the first part of a nationwide investigation into the status and performance of Spanish zoos. The shocking results have revealed that the zoos examined are failing to meet even the minimum requirements of the law.

The report “La Salud de los Zoos” (Zoo Health), has been sent, together with an official complaint, to the European Commission strongly indicating that Spain has failed to fully implement the requirements of Directive 1999/22/EC on the keeping of wild animals in zoos. This may result in the Commission taking the Spanish Government to court over this clear lack of compliance.

The report was launched yesterday in Madrid to Spanish Government officials, Members of the European Parliament and the Spanish media.

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