Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Animal performances in zoos must end, says Italian Government

3 November 2016

Categories: Homepage News, EU Zoo Inquiry News, Zoo Check Campaign News

The Born Free Foundation and the Italian animal protection NGO, LAV, has been recently notified by the Italian Ministry of Environment that animal performances in zoos are prohibited under Italy’s national zoo legislation. Parrots made to ride bicycles, dolphins required to jump through hoops for a food reward, and a chimpanzee, dressed in clothes to entertain the public, are just some of the kinds of animal performances still observed in Italian zoos.

Born Free has been investigating zoos in Italy since 2010, following concerns raised by British tourists. The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 identified that the inadequate conditions for animals were largely as a result of the poor implementation and enforcement of the law. The investigation had documented the large numbers of wild animals exploited in degrading shows.

Daniel Turner, project manager of The EU Zoo Inquiry, the extensive investigation into the status and performance of European zoos, said, “Together with our colleagues in LAV, we have been instrumental in exposing the poor conditions in zoos in Italy; we are deeply concerned about how many disrespect, and exploit their animals. The statement by the Italian Ministry responsible for zoo regulation that animal performances will end, is certainly encouraging, but with so many zoos in Italy exploiting their animals through performance, I am worried change will be slow and ineffective.”  

In the last two years, Born Free and LAV have submitted five separate reports to the Italian Government, documenting the inadequate law enforcement and substandard conditions in zoos and aquaria. Until recently no response was received.

Investigations had revealed that few zoos in Italy actually comply with the national zoo law. 

In the letter, received from the Italian Ministry of Environment, it stated, “The use of animals in shows [believed to be where animals are required to perform unnatural behaviours in an unnatural setting], is prohibited under national law.” The letter also explained that “any zoo which does not meet the compulsory basic requirements [of the law] will have their [zoo] licence withdrawn.” 

The Born Free Foundation and LAV will ensure the Italian Ministry of Environment is held to account and ensure they follow through their statement with action, to end animal performances in zoos. A further report by the two organisations evaluating the implementation and enforcement of the Italian zoo law is expected early next year.

Member of the European Parliament, Keith Taylor, who had sponsored Born Free’s photographic exhibition, focusing on the plight of animals in EU zoos, last week, welcomed the news from Italy. “The European Union advocates the highest standards in animal welfare and nothing can justify the use of wild animals in exploitative and degrading performances and shows. I hope other EU countries will follow Italy’s example.”

Born Free hopes its work investigating zoos across Europe will drive up standards and ensure animal species are only kept in conditions that meet their physical and behavioural needs. Public support for improving the role and activities at zoos would be welcomed, and people are encouraged to complete this questionnaire – - responses to which will help to influence the future of zoos and their regulation in the European Union.


For more information about The EU Zoo Inquiry, the most extensive evaluation of zoo regulation and zoo compliance, to date, please visit:   

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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