China Urges Ban on Animal Performances in Zoos
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China has called on local authorities to ban animal performances in zoos, amid persistent concerns about the poor conditions that exist in the nation's wildlife parks.

The housing and urban-rural development ministry issued a set of suggestions on Tuesday urging better management of animal parks and the banning of practices that "go against the public good".

They also urge zoos to prohibit the consumption of wild animals in their restaurants.

The ministry pointed out that some zoos had been turned into "for-profit organisations," leading to poor management and to some animals dying in "abnormal" conditions or maiming people.

The suggestions laid out include providing necessary healthcare and banning animal performances to "prevent animals from being alarmed or provoked".

Activists have for years railed against poor conditions in China's zoos and safari parks, and animal performances have caused particular concern.

The Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation said in August that showmen frequently whipped and struck animals during shows in China, "forcing them to carry out tricks that go against their natural behaviour".

The group's welfare director David Neale on Wednesday congratulated China for addressing the issue.

"We hope that this will lead to a significant improvement," Neale said in a statement.

"Animal performances portray the animals to the public in a humiliating way that does not promote empathy and respect. The animals are suffering through the training methods and through the performances themselves."

In some parks visitors can pay to feed live chickens or goats to tigers and lions, but it is unclear whether this practice is classed as a performance.

A series of scandals this year has also highlighted bad conditions in wildlife parks and prompted Beijing to draft the country's first animal protection law, which is still under consideration.

Neale said the adoption of such a law "would make a huge difference".

Earlier this year, 11 endangered Siberian tigers starved to death at a cash-strapped park in the northeastern province of Liaoning where they were fed chicken bones, and two others were shot after they mauled a worker.

In nearby Heilongjiang province, authorities also uncovered a mass grave of animals - including lions, tigers and leopards - that died of illness and malnutrition at a wildlife park, state media reported.

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