Shocking video from an animal rights group appears to show staff at an Ottawa-area zoo boasting about beating animals and using string to pry their mouths open.
Animal Justice claims the footage was recorded in secret by a whistleblower at the Papanack Zoo, a tourist destination that sparked outrage last year after a lion was shot dead after wandering out of its enclosure.
“I just f****** smacked it across the face like five times as hard as I could,” said a man in the video. He appears to be recalling a training session with a lion cub.
Another clip appears to show a man lifting a sheep off the ground with one hand then standing over it on the ground while saying, “How do you like me now b****.”
The zoo has declined to officially comment. However, an individual with ties to the zoo has told CTV Ottawa that they feel the video was selectively edited and does not show the round-the-clock care provided to animals at the facility.
The Ontario SPCA said it is aware of allegations of animal mistreatment at the Papanack Zoo and is investigating.
In addition to the alleged abuse, Animal Justice is accusing the Papanack Zoo of taking baby animals away from their mothers so they can be domesticated, handled by the public, and used as “selfie props.”
The group also takes issue with the enclosures where the animals are kept, suggesting the captivity causes “severe psychological distress.”
The video also appears to show individuals coaxing the animals to act aggressively for photo and video cameras by poking them with gloved hands and metal poles. Handlers also appear to use string to hold open the mouth of a raccoon and a skunk.
Michele Thorn, a member of the Ottawa Animal Defense League, joined dozens of protesters gathered in front of the zoo on Saturday. She said edited or not, the video speaks for itself.
“It’s pretty stomach churning,” she said. “That is enough for us to be horrified and say that animals are being mistreated here.”
Ontario is the only province that does not license or regulate zoos. Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuk said it is time for more government oversight.
“Public opinion is rapidly turning against confining animals for entertainment, yet the government continues to leave animals out in the cold,” she said in a press release.
“Even a hairstylist needs a license to operate in Ontario, yet anyone can open up a zoo without a license or government oversight.”
With a report from CTV Ottawa Annie Bergeron-Oliver