On Thursday 11th June, Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, called for the re-opening of zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries in the adjournment debate as well as continuing his support for animal rights.
As a lifelong supporter of animal welfare, champion for animal rights and the fair treatment of animals in our zoos, Sir David was delighted to hear that the Prime Minister has announced that zoos and outdoor attractions, such as safari parks, will re-open from 15th June. The re-opening of zoos will not only benefit the economy and the zoos as businesses but will also protect the animals and their health.
Sir David said “I want to praise Lorraine Platt, the founder of the Conservative animal welfare group. Given that I have been here a little while, I have observed my party on an interesting journey in animal welfare” and “I am proud that my party’s record on animal welfare is first-class, and I congratulate the Minister on that”.
The Government launched a £14 million support package for zoos and aquariums on 4th May to support zoos as businesses and their animals. The individual grants that were capped at £100,000 is a good start for many zoos and aquariums but doesn’t cover all the costs that these institutions face. Zoos, aquariums and other wildlife centres are unlike many other leisure and retail facilities that have had to close. Zoos and aquariums have high costs as they need to feed and bed the animal and they have veterinary care costs that other leisure and retail outlets, such as museums, outdoor markets and pubs, don’t have. Zoos and aquariums can still furlough their staff and benefit from other Treasury support packages, but they lost all of their ticket revenue which is vital to properly care for the animals. These wildlife sanctuaries could still face closure which would put the animals’ lives at risk and destroy all the important conservation and protection work on endangered species and animal welfare that has been undertaken.
Sealife Adventure in Southend is an example of a brilliant aquarium that needs help and Sir David concluded by saying “this wonderful aquarium in Southend … has celebrated its 27th year. It closed on 23 March and is in need of financial support to care for its 2,000 animals. They need a high level of maintenance; the cost is at least £30,000 a month” and “frustratingly, the aquarium has not been given the green light to reopen, although it could practise social distancing, and when it applied for a grant it was turned down”.
Whilst we have taken a step in the right direction by allowing some zoos and wildlife sanctuaries to re-open next week, there is still a lot that needs to be done. Many organisations have been instructed to remain closed and therefore these animal centres are being faced with difficult decisions about their future as a business and the future of the animals that rely on their care. Without being able to generate an income from ticket sales, these businesses will suffer and animal welfare standards could slip as a result. We have a duty to protect our animals and our globally recognised high standards of animal welfare, educate our children and communities through zoos and aquariums and provide relief in a period of lockdown in a safely social distanced environment. We need to re-open more zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries and provide more financial support for lost income.
To watch the full speech visit: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/bce17d1e-1b0a-4964-9c6f-a65e0da78262?in=16:07:27