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Press Release: New Book Exposes Zoo Legislation Failings

7th October 2020

Dr Liz Tyson

Legal welfare expert found almost 2,000 instances of legal breaches in zoos in her new book Licensing Laws and Animal Welfare: The Legal Protection of Wild Animals published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Dr Liz Tyson, a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, also found just 18 instances of the correct enforcement action being taken against establishments failing to meet the legal requirement of the UK Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

The book presents the most comprehensive study of the regulation of zoos, and other industries which hold “wild” animals captive in England, ever carried out.

Said Dr. Tyson: “The zoo industry and government officials have long-argued that the regulation of zoos in England is some of the most effective in the world and, indeed, have rejected out-of-hand evidence presented to them over the years by reputable animal protection organisations which suggests that there are problems with its application. The data in this research is undeniable: the law is not being enforced correctly.”

She continued: “The publication of this work presents an opportunity for the zoo industry and those responsible for regulating it, to get their house in order. There is a fundamental lack of enforcement action taken against zoos which are failing the animals under their care and this must be remedied immediately. I believe that ‘wild’ animals should not be held captive for entertainment purposes, but I hope that we can agree that, while zoos continue to do so, they should be held accountable by law.”

Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, said “Clearly this is a ground breaking work. It demonstrates what many of us have long feared, namely that regulations are often ineffective and frequently unenforced. We need a total rethink.”


Notes to Editors

  • Licensing Laws and Animal Welfare: The Legal Protection of Wild Animals by Liz Tyson (ISBN 978-3-030-50042-9), is available to buy from:
  • The book is published as part of the Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics book series, for more information see:
  • The Oxford Centre is an independent centre dedicated to the exploration of the ethical status of animals through research, teaching and publication. See
  • In addition to being a Fellow of the Oxford Centre, Dr. Liz Tyson is Programmes Director for Born Free USA. She is responsible for the management of the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, where over 450 individual non-human primates are cared for following rescue or re-homing. She has worked for over fifteen years in the NGO sector, focusing in large part on the conservation and care of non-human primates and as a campaigner on issues surrounding the captivity of non-domesticated animals.