Animals a “sorry sideshow” at Chessington theme park

Chessington World of Adventures advertises itself as the UK’s “Wildest Day Out” with a theme park and zoo combined into one tourist attraction. Recently, an informal poll was publicised by the attraction asking visitors if they preferred the rides in the theme park or the animals in the zoo. The promotion was coupled with a picture of a family on a roller-coaster on one side and a gorilla on the other with the slogan “Ride vs Zoo – you decide!” running through it. The results of this poll suggest strongly that, despite claims by the zoo industry that captive animals act as “ambassadors” to inspire new generations of conservationists, visitors to this type of resort have little interest in learning about the animals or the threats facing them in the wild. A number of respondents suggested that visiting the zoo was simply something to do to get away from the long queues for the rides or even to allow their lunch to settle before heading back to the theme park.


The “Ride vs Zoo” post next to a BIAZA “Love your zoo” promotion on the Chessington Facebook page

A CAPS spokesperson has said that the Facebook promotion “highlights the failure of zoos to engage their visitors in the work that they claim to champion and presents the animals as little more than a sorry sideshow for bored theme park goers looking to kill some time”.

Of 261 respondents, 152 people stated that they preferred rides to the zoo with just 47 people preferring to go and see the animals. 62 people liked both, but a number of these suggested that the zoo was needed in order to occupy visitors whilst they wait for queues for the rides to die down.

Other people pointed to concerns over animal welfare in the zoo, with a number of comments stating that they felt the space provided to the animals was inadequate.

Last week, child psychologist, Dr Sujatha Ramakrishna concluded that zoos served little educational purpose, saying:

 “I must conclude that zoos continue to be detrimental to animal welfare, and that they do not teach children positive lessons about animals. Kids who watch leopards pacing in mindless patterns get a completely inaccurate picture of what large predators are all about. They also learn that making sentient beings suffer for human amusement is acceptable”.

Said CAPS Director, Liz Tyson:

“The discussion on the Chessington social media feed was little more than a straw poll but the results are nonetheless telling. To hear that theme park visitors have so little interest in these animals that they are seen as little more than something to look at whilst their lunch settles is saddening, to say the least. We must remember that these animals will spend their entire lives in captivity as part of this sideshow”.

A 2010 report commissioned by Government found that there was little evidence of the efficacy of zoo educational and conservation programmes.

Miss Tyson added:

“There are plenty of theme parks that do not exploit animals in this way. We would encourage people to choose an animal-free attraction on their family days out”.

Please consider supporting CAPS ongoing campaigns to end the exploitation of captive animals by becoming a member today! Click HERE for more details.

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