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Live animal feeding in Chinese zoos and parks

August 12, 2010

A live chicken is lowered into a lion enclosure.

From Animals Asia Foundation

What is live feeding and where does it take place?
The practice of feeding predatory carnivores in zoos and wildlife parks live “prey”, has been discontinued in most countries for many years. In China, however, it is still widely practiced today.

According to a 2005 report by the Environment and Animals Ethics Group (EAEG), a Chinese working group, the numbers of “wild animal parks” and “safari parks” mushroomed in China from none pre-1993, to over 30 by 2005. Most of these parks contain predatory carnivores, and most (12 of 18 visited by the EAEG in 2003-04) practice some form of “live feeding” as a public spectacle.

The predatory carnivores in the parks include most big cat species, bears and hyenas. The “prey” animals fed to them include cattle, buffalo, goat, horse, chicken, ostrich, duck, guinea fowl and rabbit.

Predators are often starved prior to the “shows” in order to make them more aggressive so that the “show” is more spectacular, and the prey animals are often removed from the predators before they get the chance to eat them. Some prey animals are used several times before they finally die a slow painful death.

Both predators and prey are often kept in small, cramped cages or enclosures. The “show” is very far from anything that would happen in the wild, and is nothing more than an act of barbaric cruelty.

What’s the legal situation?
In October 2007, Cao Qingyao of the Chinese State Forestry Administration issued the following statement:

“Performances that include feeding live animals to wild beasts must be stopped. Forestry authorities will heavily penalise all relevant departments and institutions who organise these kind of performances.”

However, there is no animal welfare legislation in China through which penalties could be imposed.

The Chinese authorities issued a statement as far back as 1999 indicating that the practice of live animal feeding as entertainment would be banned. Sadly, no legislation has been forthcoming that would enable any such ban to be enforced.

A tiger attacks a cow at a Chinese zoo.

How do the parks justify the practice?
Park managers justify live feeding on the grounds that it provides “training” for predators destined to be released into the wild (so-called “barbarization training” or “wildness training”). It is also used as a form of public entertainment.

Often the public are encouraged to “buy” the prey animals before they are fed to the predators, and even in some cases allowed to dangle live chickens and other animals into the predators’ enclosure on the ends of ropes or fishing lines.

So why is it wrong?
Predators kept in Chinese parks and zoos are not destined to be released into the wild. Indeed many of them are not even indigenous to China. These poor animals are simply there to make money for the park owners.

Even if some of the predators were destined for release, “barbarization training” does not prepare them for a life in the wild. Most of the “prey” animals used in live feeding shows are domestic livestock; the only thing this teaches a predator is to hunt domestic animals, which would result in conflict with farmers if the predator was released. The prey animals have no means of escape, and there is no attempt to allow the predators to carry out normal predatory behaviour (eg stalking, chasing). As Jill Robinson, founder and CEO of Animals Asia, stated in 1999, “Teaching a tiger to hunt domestic animals does not teach it to survive in the wild and, endangered or not, the tiger faces death from farmers protecting their livelihood.”

According to the Nanjing Modern Express (Oct 2002), there is evidence that the majority of the Chinese zoo-going public are against the practice of live feeding, and consider the methods used to be “too barbaric”.

Dr Zhang Li, IFAW’s China Director, said “the so called barbarization training cannot revive tigers’ predatory abilities and it serves no educational end. It only provides the audience with a cruel, bloody show, which may severely harm the psychological wellbeing of the children present”.

Live feeding shows in China do not provide a safe environment for spectators, who are often on buses with open windows, or on the other side of narrow water-filled ditches. Predatory animals that have been starved prior to the “show” to make them more hungry and aggressive are potentially very dangerous in these circumstances.

Live feeding flies in the face of claims zoos make that they are interested in promoting the welfare of animals (wild or domestic).

What is Animals Asia doing?
Animals Asia Foundation believes that live feeding serves no purpose. It does not benefit the welfare or conservation of any of the animals concerned, and has no place as a form of public education or entertainment.

This practice, and the international media reports it generates, reflects poorly on modern China and tars its image internationally.

The cow, still alive, is dragged away by a tractor.

Animals Asia Foundation has been working with organisations within China such as the China Wildlife Conservation Association since 1999, to secure regulations to stop this practice. We will continue conducting investigations of facilities which allow live animal feeding and lobbying international zoo associations to bring pressure to bear where they can on Chinese zoos and parks. We will encourage our supporters to write letters of concern to their local Chinese embassies or consulates. We will continue to investigate all further means of exploring and exposing this issue.

You can help. Write to your local Chinese embassy or consulate (contact details can be found at Also please support Animals Asia Foundation’s work.

Please click HERE to see our position paper on the practice of feeding live animals to prey at Chinese zoos and safari parks.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2010 10:44 am

    Will it ever happen — the realization among every single human that animals are living creatures who feel pain, and loneliness and whatever else, just as we do. Will it ever happen? Not in my lifetime, I don’t think, as I’m already 57 and it hasn’t happened yet.


  2. karen lyons kalmenson permalink
    August 12, 2010 11:04 am

    man likes to call himself civilized
    yet he forever indulges in acts
    we despise:(


  3. helen dourahalis permalink
    August 12, 2010 12:00 pm

    there are no words to describe monsters who harm those that cannot defend themselves… words in any language…..only action…..everyone please make everyone aware of animal cruelty everywhere…..especially those who are not already….we all know people who have no idea these things go on…we need to send the message out to those who are not animal activists also…


  4. Lynne Koenigsberg permalink
    August 12, 2010 5:28 pm

    You gotta’ hate China… one barbaric society…


  5. MICHELLE MOREL permalink
    August 14, 2010 4:09 pm



  6. November 20, 2010 11:11 am

    Barbaric and disgusting exploitation of animals. The Chinese responsible for public animal parks should be named and shamed by the so called civilized west. Use diplomatic and economic measures to embarrass these monsters.


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