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Live Feeding To Zoo Animals

Updated on June 16, 2011

Live Feeding in Zoos

The subject of Live Feeding To Zoo Animals is an emotive one. It is readily accepted in some cultures by the majority of the the population. In others then the opposite applies. Perhaps today it is accepted by more people as they have been brought up with some excellent wildlife documentaries. Viewers see at first hand lions killing zebra and cheetah pulling down baby impala. Such edited clips, excellent as they are do not present the stress, the pain, the fear, the smell. Death in the wild becomes acceptable, the watcher becomes inured to what is natural in the wild.

Nature in the raw is as it is. No-one can sensibly question it. But in the Zoo? Is live feeding to zoo animals really necessary?

Lions at Giraffe Kill

Photo by:
Photo by:

Zoos are not the wild

Zoos are not the wild and they never will be. In spite of best attempts at the construction of natural enclosures, enrichment programmes and more they will never ever come close to the wild.

The modern zoo is about conservation, research, education, edutainment, cooperation and more. Zoos are for the most part NOT about breeding animals and returning them to the wild today or tomorrow. Zoos are about the maintenance, through cooperative breeding programmes of genetically viable populations. Return to the wild is the goal but, in most circumstances a goal so far into the future that most of those involved will never see this reach fruition in their lifetime.

Return to the wild needs a safe and secure wild. It needs a wild free of poachers, of human encroachment and pollution. It needs a healthy food supply. Zoos are realistic. There is no room for pie in the sky in caring for the wild.

Baby Corn Snake feeding on a dead pinkie

Why Feed Live?

Lions will eat pieces of raw meat, chickens and more. Snakes will eat dead rats, mice and rabbits too. Practically any animal will get used to eating dead food.

Why feed live? Under normal circumstances the feeding of live food to any animal is totally unnecessary. To feed live food to an animal where it is not necessary is cruel and perverse. Granted that many prey animals are killed very quickly, but it is not always the case. There is the same pain and stress as in the wild. In many cases live feeding of reptiles is down to laziness on the part of the zoo keeper. Reptiles can be trained to take dead food. Besides in the world of reptiles the number of snakes killed or maimed by their rodent prey would fill a book or two.

Any zoo which feeds live cows or goats to their large carnivores is suspect. This is commercial cruelty. Causing deliberate pain and stress to an animal for the 'amusement' of their paying visitors. Chickens are smaller but subjected to the same callous treatment almost as an afterthought.

Zoos which cannot be bothered to quickly and humanely kill prey animals before feeding them obviously have no feelings for any of the animals under their care.

A disturbing video which makes a point


If there are plans to return an animal to the wild then some sort of training or 're-wilding' is necessary. Such animals need to be able to recognise prey and to know how to catch and to kill it. We should have no problems with this as the wild is a cruel place. It is kill or be killed. Such programmes are already in operation for the likes of the South China Tiger which are presently being trained in Africa.

In most cases though none of those animals held captive in zoos today will ever be returned to the wild. It is then totally unnecessary to feed live food to zoo animals.


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  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Thank you Dardia. Live feeding will not often not be done in public. Zoos which are percieved to offer more space are not necessarily better. I hope you will read some more of my zoo hubs.

  • Dardia profile image

    Darlene Yager 7 years ago from Michigan

    I agree it is cruel and unnecessary. My husband and I recently went to a zoo of sorts where the animals are not caged in but fenced in with lots of room to roam and even there they did not feed them live food.

  • H P Roychoudhury profile image

    H P Roychoudhury 7 years ago from Guwahati, India

    The climate of animals in a closed Area such as in Zoo has made a change of impact over the natural character of the animal. A tiger in open jungle space is more dangerous than a tiger in a Zoo, a closed area.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello and thank you for reading. Just remember that there are zoos and 'zoos'. There are many in the 'zoo' world who would disagree with my point of view.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for giving a straight and down-to-earth article. I found it interesting to read about the working of a zoo.