Zoo industry divided on cruel practice of bird mutilation

Following the launch of the groundbreaking Fight for Flight campaign by CAPS to see an end the cruel practice of pinioning birds in UK zoos, a significant divide within the zoo industry has emerged over the barbaric procedure.

Baby greylag goose

This baby Greylag goose was born to fly. Help us ensure that others like him keep their wings.

Since the campaign’s launch, CAPS has been trying to establish the exact numbers of birds that have had half of their wing chopped off by zoos in order that visitors can get close to them. The task has been significantly harder than initially expected as it soon became apparent that, whilst a number of zoos were outspoken in their opposition to the practice, others refused to answer the simple questions on numbers of birds affected and company policies. The continued silence by many members of the zoo industry, coupled with the revelation that the practice was also being carried out illegally in some establishments, led to CAPS calling for an independent review to be carried out by Government.

A series of five simple questions with regard to pinioning was sent to 150 zoos in England over three months ago. Of those, 48 zoos belong to the  “professional body representing the best zoos in England and Ireland”, BIAZA. Just 63 zoos have chosen to respond to the questions and of those only 17 of those are BIAZA members. 57% (87) of all the zoos contacted have failed to respond to the queries altogether, raising serious concerns over these businesses’ accountability to their visitors and, more importantly, to the animals that they hold captive. BIAZA have stated that they are carrying out an internal review of the practice amongst their members at present but no indication of when that review might be completed, or what information might be made public, has been given

Of those zoos that did respond, only seven[1] admit to mutilating birds, with the other 56 being quick to distance themselves from the practice.

Comments provided by respondents include:

“Frankly, this is the first I myself have ever heard of such a horrible procedure and this is not something we would undertake or support here”

“We do not pinion any of our birds at [our zoo] as we do not really agree with the practice”

“We certainly do not have and will never have and would NEVER pinion any of our birds”

“I would find this practice abhorrent if carried out for management reasons”

Said CAPS Director, Liz Tyson:

“It has been interesting to see that it is not just animal protection campaigners that are opposed to this cruelty. Members of the zoo industry normally stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of criticism but it seems in this instance that many zoos share our view that pinioning must be abolished. When the zoo industry gets behind a campaign against the actions of its own members, then it puts those responsible in a very difficult position. Regardless of our overall opposition to zoos, we sincerely hope that this added pressure will give this important campaign added momentum”.

CAPS representatives will be meeting with Government officials in the coming week to discuss the potential to see Beangoose copypinioning outlawed completely. In the meantime, supporters are being asked to write to their MPs to call for support for an independent review of the practice in the interests of transparency.

In the last few hours, the CAPS team has also been speaking to partners working in mainland Europe on plans to extend the Fight for Flight to other members of the European Union.

Ms Tyson added:

“The Fight for Flight has triggered something of a domino effect. There are a number of European organisations now beginning their own research into the practice and we look forward to working with them to seek an end to the cruel mutilation of birds in zoos across the continent”.

Action Alert!

Please write to your MP today to ask:

  1. That they support the call on Government department, Defra, to carry out an independent review of pinioning in zoos to establish how many birds have been mutilated (both lawfully and unlawfully) in order to hold them captive.
  2. That they join the call to review the Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 with a view to outlawing pinioning altogether.

Please take a few moments to raise these points with your MP today. Click here to find out who your MP is and how to get in touch with them.

Visit the main campaign page to find out the other ways in which you can support the Fight for Flight campaign.


[1] Arundel, Washington, Martin Mere, Slimbridge and Barnes Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Banham Zoo and Birdworld (although Birdworld has introduced a policy which states that new enclosures must be built which allow birds to remain full winged).

Web Design, Web Development, Graphic Design by Papertank