Tug-of-war over lions’ dinner

Blaise Tapp
Blaise Tapp
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When it comes to family days out, there is nowhere that comes close to the zoo for providing good old-fashioned wholesome fun.

The zoo is where the vast majority of urban dwellers first clap eyes on an exotic creature which, if like me, you hail from somewhere such as Stockport, could easily be anything other than a pigeon or a three-legged dog.

But not everybody loves them, a fact evidenced by the almighty fuss caused by Dartmoor Zoo in Devon. This particular zoo is giving paying customers the chance to play tug -of-war with a ruddy great lion or tiger, which are now regularly fed a piece of meat attached to a rope.

The aforementioned customers, aged as young as eight, then join forces to take on the big cats and, from what we have seen and read, usually come off second best.

The idea has been passionately defended by the attraction’s owner Ben Mee, who says he sought the advice of vets and other animal experts who, he says, are adamant that it isn’t cruel and exercises muscles that the cats would only tend to use in the wild.

Not every animal lover has bought this explanation, with protesters arguing the act of people attempting to wrestle away the big cats’ dinner in the name of fun strips these proud beasts of their dignity. This is at the heart of most arguments made against zoos by people who think that the only place such creatures should be seen is in the wild.

This is a view held by PETA, the animal rights organisation, which also made headlines last week when it took great exception to Google celebrating the birthday of the late, great animal conservationist Steve Irwin. PETA released a statement condemning Google’s doodle tribute, claiming Irwin, who was killed by a stingray 13 years ago, invaded the space of wild animals by harassing them.

The ire directed at PETA was ferocious, such was the level of affection for Irwin right across the globe.

Yes, animals have a right to mind their own business, but it wasn’t for zoos and characters such as Irwin, the natural world would be a mystery to many.