Animal Rights Ministry silent on new zoo regulations

The Animal Rights Ministry does not reply to questions on when it plans to table the Bill on the Keeping of Wild Animals in Zoos after public consultation closed last December

No date yet for new regulations on zoos
No date yet for new regulations on zoos

The Animal Rights Ministry has failed to answer questions on when it plans to publish the Bill on the Keeping of Wild Animals in Zoos after the public consultation closed in December.

Questions sent last week have remained unanswered, with a ministry spokesperson saying that she still had no answer despite a number of reminders.

Last November the ministry released for public consultation fresh regulations that planned to overhaul the 2003 rules on zoos. 

According to the public consultation website, the White Paper received 1,407 responses - 1,388 coming from individuals, and 19 from organisations.

The feedback summary stated the majority of feedback came from individuals who were against zoos.  

It also stated that the majority were against “the possibility of allowing zoos to conduct breeding of wild animals and thus proposing a total ban.” A few responses also favoured the complete neutering of wild animals in zoos.

The feedback is being analysed but there is no indication as to when the government plans to issue the draft rules.

Back in November, the ministry had also made a U-turn after proposed regulations banning the petting of cubs and touching of wild animals by visitors were changed just 24 hours after the public consultation exercise started.

The change of heart by government to allow petting of cubs came after Anton Cutajar – whose illegally-built zoo on rural land in Siġġiewi was controversially sanctioned by the Planning Authority – threatened to have Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina removed.

Just last week, Bezzina was harassed on Facebook by several people for once again voicing her opinion against the keeping of exotic animals in zoos.  

Bezzina said that the petting of cubs in zoos weakens the bond between the cub and its mother and constitutes exploitation of animals. After speaking on the subject on TVM, Bezzina received a stream of discriminatory and abusive comments on her Facebook page, many of a sexual nature.

A police report has since been filed and investigations are ongoing.