Last week, the Born Free Foundation has released its summary report on the EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, an investigation into the licensing and performance of zoos in 20 EU Member States. This was done during a very successful exhibition at the European Parliament which had been initiated by Bill Newton Dunn (ALDE, UK) in collaboration with the Born Free Foundation and ENDCAP.
Despite requirements under the EU Zoo Directive that all zoos be inspected and licensed by 2005, the investigation found many zoos are still failing to meet legal obligations related to animal welfare, conservation and public education.
Following the investigations, several Member States have started making improvements to their zoo laws and related enforcement. The European Commission will soon launch a project to develop a much needed Code of Practice offering guidance to Member States on implementing and enforcing the EU Zoo Directive. Trainings for veterinarians on the welfare needs of wild animals in captivity are also underway.
Chris Davies (ALDE, UK), put forth an Oral Question to the Commission via the Environment Committee asking what steps will be taken to ensure more effective implementation of the Zoo Directive, particularly regarding the conservation of biodiversity. This discussion took place on 26 April in ENVI with additional MEPs inquiring about enforcement, plans for targeted inspections and an inspectorate, and asking for clarification on terminology in Article 2 which allows exemptions for facilities not displaying a “significant” number of animals.
While the debate took a bit of a turn to an ideological discussion of whether or not zoos should exist, it was pulled back to the issue at hand which was inquiring about what steps the Commission planned to oversee for more effective implementation of the existing Zoo Directive. The Commission noted the upcoming project on a Preferred Code of Practice and efforts to train vets, but would not commit to plans for an Environmental Inspectorate that would cover nature conservation issues or zoos.
Clearly, there remains a need for targeted efforts in Member States to undertake major improvements to the implementation and enforcement of the Zoo Directive. Support for such efforts will be needed from the Commission, Parliament and Member States, as well as from diverse stakeholders that must come together in the common interest of ensuring zoos in the EU meet the requirements of the Directive thereby contributing to biodiversity conservation and improving the welfare of animals kept in zoos.