New animal rights bill includes series of protections for elephants against zoo captivity in UK

"[UK's forthcoming elephant] legislation is testimony to this work and key to forcing us to examine how we treat animals for the sake of our entertainment and so-called education."

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African elephant (Loxodonta africana) group drinking from waterhole - wide angle perspective. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.

The Animal Welfare Bill introduced in the UK will protect elephants from being held in zoos and safari parks throughout the country. The bill, which is set to pass this year, was sponsored by Zac Goldsmith, Environment Minister, and is supported by a report that concludes zoos are an unnatural place for elephants to live out their natural tendencies and behaviors, according to VegNews.

While elephants are “highly intelligent,” the animal has faced ailments such as hernias, arthritis, and mental degradation from being held in zoos, according to The Beet.

“Elephants are highly intelligent, extremely social, sentient beings with complex family structures and bonds that last a lifetime,” Audrey Delisin, elephant biologist and wildlife director of Humane Society International. “They require space to roam freely with other elephants where they can express normal elephant behaviors and thrive emotionally and physically.”

Currently, there are 51 elephants living in 11 different zoos throughout the UK. But once the bill passes, these elephants will be returned to the wild and elephants will no longer be bred or captured for zoo captivity. The Animal Welfare Bill, or the Kept Animals Bill, once passed will include protections for additional animals in an attempt to “oppose zoos and aquariums” that hold them in captivity,” according to VegNews.

Bob Jacobs, a professor of Neuroscience at Colorado College, “studied that confining large mammals in zoos and aquariums can lead to neurological issues, such as compromised brain function, according to EcoWatch. While the lifespan of an elephant in the wild is 50 years, an elephant living in a zoo tends to live an average of 17 years.

“Research by Professor Jacobs and many other scientists on the neurological effects of caging animals presents us with evidence that can no longer be disputed,” Delsink said to VegNews. “[UK’s forthcoming elephant] legislation is testimony to this work and key to forcing us to examine how we treat animals for the sake of our entertainment and so-called education. Today’s technology offers a myriad of highly immersive educational methods to teach us everything from black holes to dinosaurs—things we will have never seen but nonetheless know about.”

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