Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife Sanctuaries: Reopening

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 4:07 pm, 11th June 2020

I absolutely do agree with the hon. Lady, and I must say I think the Isle of Wight zoo is also a superb—I have visited it a number of times.

I am very keen on safari parks. I have been on a number of safaris: we get in all the gear, get in a boneshaker of a vehicle, get bitten by mosquitoes, and then we are told we are going to see all the wild animals, but half the time we cannot see them, but then I do not particularly want to see lions eating other animals.

To get back to zoos, a number of them have rescued animals from circuses. Those animals live a lot longer than they otherwise would, and are very well cared for indeed.

I want to say something to my parliamentary colleagues on this side of the House. This is the best attended Adjournment debate on an animal welfare measure since my right hon. Friend Sir Greg Knight had an Adjournment debate about 30 years ago, when the now noble Lord Waldegrave responded, about the little monkeys we used to see sitting on top of pianos and so forth. It is wonderful that so many colleagues on the Government side have become so enthusiastic about animal welfare again.

I want to praise Lorraine Platt, the founder of the Conservative animal welfare group. Given that I have been here a little while, I have observed my party on an interesting journey in animal welfare. I do not wish to upset some of my colleagues, but let me say that we are not going to bring back foxhunting, we are not going to have badger-baiting again and we are not going to be snaring animals. I am proud that my party’s record on animal welfare is first-class, and I congratulate the Minister on that.

I very much agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Romford that this announcement is extremely good. I do not want to be churlish about it, but I just wish to point out the situation of the Sea Life Adventure aquarium in Southend; my right hon. Friend Mr Francois has left now, but he is right to say that this is another reason why Southend should become a city. We will have a city status contest and it will be to coincide with the Duke of Edinburgh’s 100th birthday next year. The following year, Her Majesty will have been on the Throne for 75 years. This city contest will happen and Southend will become a city. This wonderful aquarium in Southend, which my hon. Friend the Member for Romford has been to, has celebrated its 27th year. It closed on 23 March and is in need of financial support to care for its 2,000 animals. They need a high level of maintenance; the cost is at least £30,000 a month, although this is relatively small in comparison with zoos mentioned by other colleagues. Frustratingly, the aquarium has not been given the green light to reopen, although it could practise social distancing, and when it applied for a grant it was turned down. I hope that she will send messages to her officials and give the aquarium good news.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford on his success in securing this Adjournment debate. Given the success he has had before even opening his mouth on the matter, I am sure he will continue to achieve so much more for animals. I say to him: well done.