Wanted dead or alive: ethics and animal welfare in food choice
Keywords:ethics, life feeding, policy, welfare
The use of live food in zoological collections is a constant source of debate, with multiple approaches to discussions of implementation. The debate can be divided between those ‘internal’ (professionals within captive care) and ‘external’ (public) to the zoo world. Generally, there is a certain objection by a part of the public to the use of live prey, especially regarding the use of animals that commonly generate empathy such as mammals. The public is more likely to accept this practice if it is performed behind the scenes. The focus is often on the visual impact of such a practice, especially on families visiting with children. Additionally, each country has its own national regulations and therefore public perception may be different. Internally in the community of zoo professionals, the debate should be centred primarily on animal welfare—of both predator and prey. Some of the factors that should be considered are positive stimulation of predatory instincts with environmental enrichment, pain and stress for the prey and in turn injury to the predators, sanitary risks and conditions of the facilities. The European Zoo Nutrition Conference 2023 was considered an appropriate event at which to highlight the situation, presenting the latest research on this issue, combined with data provided by conference participants. The authors hope to generate a purposeful discussion to address this ‘elephant in the room’.
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