Dartmoor Zoo, near Plymouth in England, is at the center of controversy after they charged visitors $20 to play tug-of-war with its big cats.
The zoo allows visitors, young as eight years old, to pull a rope with a piece of meat attached that is already inside the animal’s mouth.
Dubbed as “human v beast” competition, visitors who take part in the game will have to wrestle the food from the big cat’s grip. Zoo officials and administrators argue that the event keeps the lions and tigers fit and healthy, according to a report by This Is Insider.
However, about 2,000 people signed a petition calling the event cruel.
“[It demonstrates] a total lack of respect for these beautiful majestic wild animals[…] the zoo is acting more like a circus than somewhere that really cares about the health and safety of the endangered animals in their captivity,” Sue Dally, organizer of the petition, told This Is Insider.
“There are many alternative ways of [giving the animals exercise] and we feel it should not be marketed for public entertainment and that this activity does not promote respect for animals,” added The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
A spokesman for the zoo explained that the zoo keepers usually “do rope-pulling with their big cats for enrichment purposes. This type of activity, which is common at many zoos, is very important to keep the animals fit and healthy as it encourages exercise, which build muscle mass.”