Authorities are investigating the Vancouver Aquarium and Great Vancouver Zoo for animal cruelty, after the Vancouver Humane Society filed a report concerning poor conditions at the facilities.
In 2022, the Vancouver Humane Society released shocking footage from the Zoo and the Aquarium showing an isolated lion pacing endlessly along a fence, African penguins with no privacy from public gaze, sea otters peeling back the edges of their tank, a sea lion sucking on the ground, and hippos living in barren concrete enclosures.
In the footage, animals at both facilities can be seen exhibiting abnormal stereotypic behaviours that are signs of severe psychological distress caused by confinement. The Vancouver Humane Society is calling on the B.C. government to do more to protect captive animals.
Zoos and aquariums are generally designed for public display, not for the well-being of animals. That’s why physical and mental suffering is common for animals locked up in cages and tanks.
In the wild, animals are often free to roam vast distances in rich and diverse habitats. But in captivity, animals are often trapped in tiny spaces that are hundreds or even thousands times smaller than their natural ranges, and suffer miserable lives of sheer boredom—all for the sake of entertainment.
Zoos and aquariums may assist with conservation efforts that benefit wild species in some rare circumstances. But the vast majority of animals bred in these facilities will spend their lives in captivity, and are never returned to the wild.
In recent years, public sentiment has shifted when it comes to keeping wild animals in captivity. Now, over half of Canadians oppose keeping animals in zoos and aquariums.
Animal Justice has long advocated for zoos and aquariums to transition into sanctuaries where animals’ need come first. Keeping and breeding animals in zoos for entertainment purposes only perpetuates suffering. But sanctuaries can focus on rescue and rehabilitation, as well as conservation of endangered and at-risk species, and offer a home for animals rescued from the entertainment industry or the exotic pet trade.
Risks to animal health and well-being are particularly high at unregulated roadside zoos. For instance, in 2017, Animal Justice released a high-profile exposé at Papanack Zoo in Ontario, exposing shocking cruelty and neglect, as well as animals exhibiting troubling repetitive behaviours.
Our lawyers will continue pushing Canada to pass stronger laws to protect animals in captivity, encourage zoos and aquariums to transition to sanctuary models that place the interests of animals first, and will keep working to raise awareness for the widespread animal suffering in the zoo and aquarium industries.
We will share further details regarding the cruelty investigations at the Vancouver Aquarium and Great Vancouver Zoo as they become available.
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