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The Bristol Cable

Alcohol, Animals and Acrobatics- Bristol Zoo’s Controversial ‘Big Night Out’

flickr user Synwell

Bristol Zoo will host a controversial 18+ late night event later this month, despite the cancellation of a similar evening at London Zoo last year.

Photo: Flickr CC/Synwell

The event, to take place on the 29th of July, is marketed as ‘a fun-packed night full of entertainment’ and features acrobats, alcohol and live music. Bristol Zoo has advertised it as ‘perfect for birthdays, stag and hen parties and catching up with mates’. But the tumultuous mix of booze and beast has already raised concerns about the welfare of the animals, given the zoo’s choice to run the evening until 10:30pm.

Similarly advertised late night openings at London Zoo last year reportedly saw a man pour beer over a tiger, the glass of a snake enclosure cracked, butterflies crushed, a man strip off in attempt to enter the penguin pool and a drunken woman attempted to enter the lion enclosure.

flickr user MartThis led to five major animal charities, including PETA and the RSPCA, to protest against the evening event – and over 10,000 people signed a petition which saw the cancellation of these weekly events.

In an open letter sent to London Zoo, animal charities warned: “Zoo Lates, which take place outside normal opening hours, while animals would normally be resting, are likely to have an even greater (sic) welfare impact, particularly if the visitors behave in a manner that stresses the animals.”

The Bristol Animal Rights Collective (BARC), who have protested outside the gates of the Zoo before, fear a repetition of the actions of London revellers.

“Animal welfare must take priority over our entertainment and financial gain,” a spokesperson for the group told the Cable. “These events are unethical, unnecessary and outdated; they do not reflect the values that we hold as a society, or the love and care we have for animals.’’

In a similar campaign to the last year’s London Zoo protesters, BARC have set up a petition which aims to ‘stop this unnecessary disruption of the animal’s lives and routines’.

Bristol Zoo rejects that the event is unethical. A spokesperson told the Cable:

“‘Big Night Out’, as with all our events, is very carefully planned and managed by our guest services and animal experts. We will have adequate numbers of staff and security personnel on site to ensure the safety of our animals and guests. The event is designed to be enjoyable for all guests, without compromising animal welfare.”

The website for this event explains that the zoo ‘reserves the right to refuse or eject individuals who are intoxicated’.

It is understood that the whole of the zoo will remain open, with the exception of Twilight World and Wallaby Walkabout, and the closing times of animal houses will be staggered throughout the evening. It is not known how far the music and celebration will be from these houses.

To many, Bristol Zoo, founded in 1836, is one of Bristol’s great attractions; in the same league as the SS Great Britain and the Suspension Bridge. The idea of an alcohol-fuelled party alongside its world-famous animals might be appealing to some. But the Bristol Animal Rights Collective believes there is price to be paid for partying, “raising funds by pandering to our desire to ‘party’ with the animals is not putting the animals needs first. We and our families need predictability, routine and privacy and these animals crave the same”.


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