Animal performances in Chinese zoos – cruel and unnatural

ACTAsia hosted its second Concern for Life Media Forum on July 3rd, 2011, to make the Chinese media aware of the cruelty involved in live animal performances in Chinese zoos. The forum was co-hosted by Zhang Xue Hu, the deputy editor of Shenzhen News, a major online news channel in Shenzhen, and Gao Haiyun, who was Miss Shenzhen 2005 and is also ACTAsia China’s Compassion Ambassador. The event was attended by media from several newspapers, radio stations, websites and TV stations including Star TV and Phoenix TV.

A documentary was shown at the forum which covered the cruel and inhumane training process involved. A macaque on Hai Nan Island, a popular tourist destination in southern China, had her baby taken away from her and was forced to learn how to perform tricks in order to get some time with her baby. Apart from this mental abuse that caused distress to the mother and child, abuse by the trainers included yanking at the monkey’s collar and beating her around the face. This documentary was a typical example of animal training, and evoked a lot of discussion among the audience – the editor of Shenzhen News said: “The cruelty of humans is behind animal performances.”

In 2010 the Chinese government banned all animal performances in zoos. Although the ban was supposed to be implemented in January 2011, performances still continue across the country, according to an investigation by the Chinese Zoo Monitoring Group, led by Professor Meng Ping.

Rob Laidlaw, the Executive Director and Founder of Zoo Check Canada, participated in the forum through a weblink, and stated: “Macaques are highly intelligent, extremely social, exceptionally active primates. They live in troops of 20 -200, with stable matrilineal hierarchies. The documentary showed that the housing provided was too small – they could not even stretch their arms properly. There was nothing in the cages to meet their behavioural and nesting needs. Monkeys show signs of fear and frustration by struggling against their chains, retreating into the cage, refusing to do requested behaviours, fear grimaces and submissive posturing.”

Currently there are over 200 zoos including safari parks in China and the number of animal performances zoos is increasing. Many wild animals, including endangered species, are used for the performances. Hong Kong STV News presenter Hung Yun said, “Audiences cannot see and do not know the cruelty behind animal performances. Such outdated entertainment should not be continued, but should become a part of history.”

Two junior high school students who attended the forum after seeing a poster about it, wrote a letter on behalf of a little bear cub to read out at the forum. The letter asked “all children not to go to animal performances if they visit a zoo during the holiday break ”. They added: “We used to love to watch animal shows and did not see any problems with them, but now that we have learnt about the cruelty behind these shows we feel very sad about the situation. We have started to tell our friends at school about the real situation but sadly we are the minority among our friends.”

Finally ACTAsia China Manager Isobel Zhang concluded: “Animal performances have a negative impact on Chinese society and send the wrong message to our children. These performances tell the children that animals can be used for entertainment, that they should perform these unnatural acts, and that cruelty to animals are acceptable. We are pleased to see that the Chinese government has banned animal performances in zoos and we ask that this order be implemented immediately.”