Animal performance suspended at zoo as Chinese demand change

19 May 2017

Footage of a bear being kicked by a trainer during a performance has outraged the Chinese public leaving the zoo scrambling for excuses.

In the video, a juvenile moon bear is seen being forced to walk on two legs and jump over barriers while being pulled via a chain round its neck by a young trainer.

When the suffering bear instead stumbles into the obstacles and knocks them all down, the frustrated trainer kicks the bear in the groin.

Since being uploaded to Chinese social media on Monday 15 May, the footage has been viewed nearly 10 million times, prompting thousands of outraged comments.

The social media backlash has been so strong that the zoo has declared all animal performances suspended along with the trainer.

According to witnesses, the trainer kicked the bear around four times, while the audience pleaded with him to stop.

A spokesperson for the zoo confirmed the trainer had been suspended. 

The incident took place at Fujian Zoo in south eastern Fuzhou city on Sunday 14 May with reports suggesting the moon bear has been performing every day for three or four years.

With the story attracting such attention online the national press soon followed with dozens of outlets picking up the story, sparking a nation-wide debate on animal performance.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for China’s animal circuses to hide the cruel reality of their trade from the public. As awareness increases, Chinese people are speaking up and being heard.

“Clearly, the public abhors cruelty and are willing to speak out and demand change. The fact that their voices are finally being heard is worth celebrating.

“We believe, in time this growing group of animal cruelty aware netizens will increasingly impact on the wider population. That will mean fewer people wanting to watch animal performance. Circuses and ocean parks which use animals this way need to know it is not a sound investment. This cruelty won’t be tolerated much longer.”

China issued a government directive in 2011 banning animal performances. However, an Animals Asia investigation into animal performance in China's zoos revealed that as of 2016, 39.1% of zoos and safari parks – nearly 100 of those surveyed – had failed to fall in line with the legislation.

Today, six years on from the legislation, animal performance remains common at facilities across the country.