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Home > Statistics > 11 Disheartening UK Animals in Captivity Statistics to Know in 2024

11 Disheartening UK Animals in Captivity Statistics to Know in 2024

Animals in Captivity Statistics UK

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Animals in captivity are often subjected to physical and mental abuse. They are deprived of the natural environment and social stimulation they need to live healthy lives. In some cases, animals are confined to barren cages or basic enclosures for their entire lives, causing them great pain and suffering.

Zoos and circuses have been incredibly popular in the United Kingdom for centuries. They offer visitors a chance to see captive and exotic animals up close and personal, in a way that is impossible—or extremely risky—in the wild. More recently, zoos and circuses in the UK have been subject to criticism for their treatment of animals, but many remain prominent tourist attractions.

Laboratory animals in the UK are bred for—and subjected to—lives of suffering. Most people believe that the use of laboratory animals is necessary in order to advance scientific knowledge. However, these animals are subjected to experiments that could never be carried out on humans because of the level of suffering involved and because they often do not survive the experience.

These disheartening statistics on how animals in captivity live in the UK ought to be more widely known since few people know what actually takes place in the lives of captive animals behind closed doors.

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The 11 UK Animals in Captivity Statistics

  1. Zoos and safari parks in the UK often have enclosures 100 times smaller than animals’ natural habitats.
  2. Over 75% of British zoos do not meet minimum animal welfare standards.
  3. More than 50% of elephants in captivity in the UK show behavioral problems.
  4. UK zoos house a total of around 51 elephants.
  5. Almost 80% of UK aquarium animals are wild-caught.
  6. In a UK survey, 84% of UK zoo visitors were shocked to hear that zoos only spend 3% of their budget on conservation.
  7. Over 300 licensed zoos are currently operating in the UK.
  8. In Britain and Ireland, about 30 million people visit zoological collections each year.
  9. In 2021, there was a 6% increase in scientific procedures involving animals in Great Britain, bringing the total to over 3 million.
  10. Genetically altered animals accounted for over 1 million procedures in 2021, with over 43% of all UK procedures involving animals.
  11. The UK is one of only 27 countries worldwide to ban wild-animal circuses.
UK_ANIMALS_IN_CAPTIVITY_FACTS_&_STATISTICS
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Statistics for Zoos, Safari Parks, and Aquariums

1. Zoos and safari parks in the UK often have enclosures 100 times smaller than animals’ natural habitats.

[PETA–Don’t Visit Zoos]

In the wild, animals can roam freely, sometimes over enormous ranges, while in a zoo they may be trapped in a space of only several square feet. The trend of zoos and safari parks enlarging their animal habitats has been increasing in recent years as more people become aware of the welfare issues associated with keeping large animals in small spaces. But captive animals will never experience the freedom that wild animals enjoy.

lions resting on rock
Image Credit: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz, Pexels

2. Over 75% of British zoos do not meet minimum animal welfare standards.

[PETA]

Animal rights organization PETA states that over three-quarters of British zoos do not meet the minimum animal welfare standards set by the organization. This means that most zoos in England did not meet the criteria for keeping animals in conditions that minimize pain, suffering, and distress. PETA has been campaigning for better treatment of animals in zoological institutions since 1980, and they suggest that much work remains to be done.


3. More than 50% of elephants in captivity in the UK show behavioral problems.

[Freedom for Animals]

The majority of elephants in captivity in the UK have been observed exhibiting behavioral problems. More than half of the elephants exhibited one or more stereotypes—such as repetitive movements, pacing, or swaying—that are considered abnormal. The findings suggest that elephants kept in captivity are negatively affected by conditions such as boredom and stress.

elephant raising its trunk
Image Credit: Magda Ehlers, Pexels

4. UK zoos house a total of around 51 elephants.

[Inhabitat.com]

Elephants are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth and suffer greatly in captivity. Due to their size and intelligence, they require a lot of space and enrichment. This means that many zoos struggle to keep up with the physical space requirements for elephant exhibits, meaning that elephants in captivity often live in cramped and barren conditions. Public pressure is mounting to release the elephants currently suffering in the UK’s zoos.


5. Almost 80% of UK aquarium animals are wild-caught.

[PETA–Aquariums]

In UK aquaria, almost 80% of animals are wild-caught, frequently from coral reefs, which damages fragile ecosystems. PETA argues that keeping marine animals in captivity imposes enormous stress and deprivation on them, making them more likely to suffer from disease and aggression. Marine parks are known for their cruel practices such as keeping animals in small enclosures and forcing them to perform for tourists.

Algae inside the aquarium with fish
Image Credit: photosforyou, Pixabay

6. In a UK survey, 84% of zoo visitors were shocked to hear that zoos only spend 3% of their budget on conservation.

[Responsible Travel]

Critics say that zoos are not effective at conserving animals and that money could be better spent on protecting them in their natural habitats. However, visitors to zoos have a false perception that their visit is contributing to animal conservation. There is a huge disconnect between public perceptions of zoos and their actual contribution to conservation, as demonstrated by this statistic.


7. Over 300 licensed zoos are currently operating in the UK.

[Born Free]

The majority of larger zoos are located in major cities, but there are also many smaller collections that can be found throughout the UK. These zoos are not well observed or well regulated, which makes the collection of statistics on animal welfare difficult. The presence of so many zoos shows that the public doesn’t yet fully understand how problematic zoos are.

a woman handling a falcon in zoo
Image Credit: Santa3, Pixabay

8. In Britain and Ireland, about 30 million people visit zoological collections each year.

[The Guardian]

According to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, zoos are big businesses in both Britain and Ireland. The main attraction for many visitors is the opportunity to see animals in their natural habitats, and zoos also provide educational opportunities for children. However, because of animal abuse statistics like the ones we have shared, more and more people are questioning the ethics of zoos.

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Laboratory Animal Statistics

9. In 2021, there was a 6% increase in scientific procedures involving animals in Great Britain, bringing the total to over 3 million.

[Gov.uk]

The increase has been largely due to advances in medical technology and research, but also due to the rising popularity of genetically altering animals. Some animal rights groups have criticized the government for not doing enough to regulate or restrict this type of research, while others argue that it is necessary for some medical treatments. All animals involved in scientific procedures suffer to some extent.

vet checking donkey
Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

10. Genetically altered animals accounted for over 1 million procedures in 2021, with over 43% of all UK procedures involving animals.

[Gov.uk]

The majority of these procedures were for research purposes, but there has been an increase in the use of genetically modified animals for commercial purposes as well. The majority of animals used did not suffer severely or die during these procedures. However, a number of concerns have been raised about the safety and ethical implications of genetically altering animals. Despite this, there is still a large demand for these services.

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Circus Animals

11.  The UK is one of only 27 countries worldwide to ban wild-animal circuses.

[PETA–Banned]

One of the oldest forms of entertainment is now being phased out in many countries, as wild-animal circuses are becoming more and more unpopular. This is one statistic where thankfully the UK is in the right. There are many reasons why people are against these types of shows. Some people feel that animals should not be used for entertainment purposes and that they should instead be treated better. Others argue that these animals should be released into the wild rather than perform in front of a large audience. Regardless of people’s opinions, it seems that thankfully, the popularity of wild-animal circuses is slowly waning across the globe.

lion in the savannah licking lips
Image Credit: JumpStory

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Frequently Asked Questions About UK Animals in Captivity

How Many Animals Are Held in Captivity in the UK?

[Animals MDPI]

It is impossible to determine exactly how many wild animals are being held in captivity in the UK across zoos, circuses, aquariums, as exotic pets, and at other venues. There is, however, evidence to suggest that approximately 60,000 wild tetrapod animals (amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles) are kept captive in just UK zoos alone. Overall, however, there will be a much greater number of animals kept in captivity.

Are Animals in Captivity Prone to Depression?

[Wildlife New Zealand]

Wild animals in captivity often suffer from depression and anxiety due to unnatural living conditions and lack of social interaction. These conditions can lead to behavioral issues such as aggression, excessive grooming, pacing, and self-mutilation—known as zoochosis. Animal welfare organizations are trying to improve the lives of these animals by providing them with better living conditions and more social interaction. Various aspects of captivity can lead to zoochosis, such as being forced to stay inactive and stationary constantly or being denied their species’ normal social structure.

Are There Plans to Ban Elephants in UK Zoos?

[Chester Zoo]

Despite repeated calls from environmentalists and animal welfare organizations, there is currently no law against keeping these magnificent animals in UK zoos. In fact, the CEO at Chester Zoo has said the Minister for Zoos has provided repeated assurances that the Government has no plans to ban the zookeeping of elephants in the United Kingdom.

Elephants
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

What Percent of Animals in UK Zoos are Endangered?

[Responsible Travel] [Born Free]

The perception of what zoos achieve in terms of conservation far outstrips the harsh reality: more than 60% of UK zoo visitors were taken aback to learn that only 10% of captive animals in zoos are actually endangered. More than 60% of animal species kept by the Consortium of Charitable

Zoos in the UK are classified as Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. That is to say, most zoo animals in the UK are species that do not need to be held captive to survive.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important for people to be aware of the disheartening statistics concerning animals in captivity in the UK. These statistics show that there is still a long way to go before all animals in captivity are treated with respect and compassion. While there has been some progress made—for example with the outlawing of wild-animal circuses—much more needs to be done in order to ensure that all animals live happy lives.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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