MP's praise for work of Whipsnade Zoo

Sarah Owen MPSarah Owen MP
Sarah Owen MP
But Luton MP warns conservation work needs protecting

Whipsnade Zoo won praise in the House of Commons this week from Luton North MP Sarah Owen, who highlighted the Bedfordshire zoo’s sector-leading work on conservation in a debate on a new Animal Welfare law.

The bill, supported in principle at this stage in Parliament by Labour, will bring in new standards on animal welfare. However, organisations like ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and the RSCPA have raised concerns that the new law hands too much power to Conservative Ministers to set rules on conservation work carried about by Zoos. Labour plan to lobby the government to change the bill to protect the vital conservation work of Whipsnade and other zoos around the country.

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Whipsnade’s freshwater aquarium is home to more threatened and extinct-in-the-wild species than any other in the world and provides scientific insights to inform work to help reintroduce and conserve species in their natural habitats – including projects in Madagascar, Greece and Turkey. The Zoo’s work with elephants at Whipsnade translates directly to protecting species in the wild. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s conservation work also encompasses young people - and the zoo’s on-site teachers deliver engaging learning programmes in biology and conservation to around 50,000 schoolchildren every year, instilling children with the wonder of and desire to protect wildlife,

In the debate, Owen also raised with ministers her ongoing campaign for tougher penalties for misuse of fireworks, highlighting the fear it causes for pets. The campaigning Labour MP’s proposal on fireworks won praise last year from the Dogs’ Trust. The Minister responding promised to meet with the MP about her campaign.

The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday) with the support of Labour MPs. Labour will now push the government to listen to concerns raised by Whipsnade and others as the bill progresses through Parliament.

Dominic Jermey, the Director General of ZSL Zoological Society of London commented: “We greatly appreciate Sarah’s support for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in the debate on the Kept Animals Bill. As a world-leading zoo practicing the highest standards for the well-being of the precious species in our care, we welcome the Bill’s intent to set universal welfare standards widely across the zoo sector. We feel it is vital to maintaining the commitment to a wide range of conservation activities as part of zoo licensing changes being proposed.”

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Luton North’s Labour MP Sarah Owen added: “I’m an animal lover, and a proud dog owner. That’s why I want the UK the have the highest animal welfare standards on the planet.”

“I support the fantastic work that Zoos like Bedfordshire’s Whipsnade Zoo do to protect wildlife and the environment. I’m really worried that the government might be inadvertently politicising this work, by giving Tory Ministers the power to set the rules on what Zoos should and shouldn’t be doing.”

“I loved visiting just a few weeks ago with my family. Our county should really be proud of Whipsnade.”

“I hope the government listen and get on board with my ambition to make this country a better, safer place for animals.”