Zoos: the Life of Animals in Captivity

Animal Equality's investigation team has carried out a nine-month undercover investigation into the most important zoos in Spain. Several activists have documented the life of enslaved animals in these zoos through photos, videos, and expert reports.

ZOOS: THE LIFE OF ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY. An undercover investigation by Animal Equality

Animal Equality’s investigation team has carried out a nine-month undercover investigation into the most important zoos in Spain. Several activists have documented the life of enslaved animals in these zoos through photos, videos, and expert reports.

Zoos, contrary to popular belief, are often little more than psychological torture and extermination centers for animals. Animals in zoos are caged for life and deprived of the opportunity to develop and fulfill the full range of their interests and needs. They lose control over their lives and the environment they live in. Social animals are often forced to live in the misery of solitary confinement. Animals who would prefer to live alone are often forced into close contact with others. Some animals are confined next to their predators, and some are held in crammed, barren environments where they are constantly bullied by cagemates. Animal Equality has observed animals living in squalid environments among their own feces in a state of anxiety. In zoos, many animals are taken from their families and sent to other zoos, or killed when their group size exceeds the space allotted to them. As an example of the grim life of animals in zoos, an Animal Equality undercover investigator documented the last days of “Chata”, a baby lioness who fell ill at Seville Zoo and died, without receiving any veterinary care, due to her abuse at the zoo.

The questionable ‘educational’ message of zoos The alleged ‘educational’ role of zoos needs to be challenged if we want to live in a just and equitable society that respects animals. If zoos teach anything, they teach us dangerous lessons. They teach us that humans have the right to enslave animals and reinforce the notion that animals have no other purpose other than for our gain. Zoos do not teach us to respect individuals.

The behavior of animals in zoos is typical of many other animals in captivity. It is stunted and unnatural. Zoos do not teach children about the natural attributes of animals, on the contrary zoos provide a distorted image and teach them how animals should not be living. The disturbed and often bizarre behavior of animals in zoos provides further evidence that holding animals captive is simply wrong. If we want to instill values in children such as respect for others, we should start by not visiting places that enslave and cage animals for life.

If you care about animals, do not visit the zoo. Educate your children to respect others.

Animals suffer in zoos. They get depressed, psychologically disturbed, frustrated, they harm each other, become ill, go hungry, and are forced to endure extreme and unnatural temperatures. These animals cannot live as they would wish to live. In zoos, animals such as dolphins and sea lions are ridiculed in demeaning and embarrassing performances, animals can get extremely stressed by screaming visitors. They are subjected to camera flashes and the hordes of hundreds of people who spend each day in front of their cages to watch but learn nothing. If you care about animals do not go to the zoo. Educate your children true respect for animals.


The message zoos give is a sad and dangerous one: that other animals exist on this planet for human entertainment. Whether on holiday or closer to home, we can choose not to support this murky, exploitative industry: do not visit the zoo.

You can also make a difference by informing others about why these places should not exist. Share our zoo investigation and post it to your friends.

You can also write a letter to the Spanish Embassy in your country by sending them a letter urging them to take action and demanding the closure of all Spanish Zoos.

You can find the emails of your Spanish Embassy in your country clicking here.

Sample letter:

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing to alert you to the findings of a recent investigation into the Spanish zoo industry by the international animal rights group, Animal Equality.

Eight of the most well-known zoos in Spain: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Cádiz, Sevilla, Jerez, and Córdoba were documented over the course of a year by the Animal Equality investigation team. The shocking findings reveal gross misconduct by zoo staff and a high proportion of animals in poor health, which raises the question of the availability of husbandry expertise, healthcare and veterinary attention at the zoos.

The investigation has received national and international media coverage – on major TV channels, radio, and in newspapers within Spain itself, as well as in a UK tabloid. The group has filed complaints to the relevant authorities in Spain, outlining their concerns, and has recommended that the zoos close.

The investigation findings include:

– Exploitative performances or encounters at most of the zoos. Performances involved animals carrying out potentially damaging and stressful behavior. Some of the animals performing were wild-caught. – Sick and injured animals left to suffer without veterinary attention – Zoo workers hitting the animals – Mentally disturbed animals self-mutilating – Animals surrounded by debris including feed and feces

One particularly heartbreaking story is that of a lion cub named “Chata” at Seville Zoo. Disturbing footage shows Chata chained around the neck and struggling to free herself as staff administers an injection of saline solution. Further conversations show members of staff told investigators that a vet would not be called to her despite an ongoing illness and, eventually, we hear recordings detailing her which, according to the member of staff questioned, the vet attributed to her simply not wanting to live.

Investigators also discovered that this zoo was using dangerous animals for photo sessions with tourists, and was even hiring out some of the animals to be used in TV advertising.

You can view the full investigation report at http://www.spanishzoos.org/.

I urge you to begin remedial action against these zoos and I support the call for their closure.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Name & Address