UK zoos vary in scale and scope, and a diverse range of premises including bird of prey centres, aviaries, farm parks with exotic animals, safari parks, traditional metropolitan zoos and aquariums are issued licences to operate as zoos by their local authorities. More than 50% of local authorities have one or more licensed zoos within their constituency.

Born Free maintains the most complete and comprehensive database of zoos in the UK. There are currently more than 300 licensed zoos in operation across the country.

Born Free’s investigations have revealed that many zoos in the UK do not provide their animals with the best possible living conditions or standards of care. Every year, we receive many visitor reports concerning animal welfare in UK zoos. We investigate these concerns, where possible, and raise concerns with the UK authorities, as well as encouraging the wider public to speak out. 

Practices in many UK zoos, such as the use of bullhooks on captive elephants, the pinioning of birds’ wings to prevent flight in captivity, and the culling of surplus animals are all major issues of concern.  

Born Free is concerned the current zoo licensing and inspection system in the UK often fails to guarantee animal welfare. Researchers from Born Free and the University of Bristol published an analysis of the reports of government-appointed inspectors from 192 British zoos. This analysis highlighted concerns about the inspection process, and identified areas where changes would lead to improvements in both the inspection process and the monitoring of animal welfare standards in zoos. Overall, the findings indicated that zoos in Britain were not fully compliant with the Zoo Licensing Act.  

Incidents in UK zoos, such as the exposé of conditions at South Lakes Safari Zoo and the frequent escape of many animals from zoos, highlights the urgent need for improved standards and more rigorous inspection processes to ensure the basic animal welfare and safety standards are in place.

Born Free exposes suffering and neglect, challenges the UK zoo industry, and lobbies for policy change.



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