Brussels schools no longer allowed to visit zoos
Several schools in the Brussels commune of Elsene are no longer allowed to organise visits to local zoos following a city council decision made last year
Animal welfare concerns
The Elsene city council said that visits by its municipal schools to local zoos had been prohibited since the start of the 2019-2020 schoolyear, but the news of the decision only got out yesterday.
“As a government, we do not organise school visits to places where animals are kept trapped,” the city council told VRT NWS. “We are not opposed to the concept of animal zoos, but we believe there are other ways to observe non-native species.”
Elsene mayor Christos Doulkeridis, a lawmaker for the Ecolo-Groen party, added that animal zoos have no pedagogical value. “There are enough alternatives, a petting zoo for instance.”
Asked for a response, a spokesperson for the Antwerp Zoo pointed out that the animal park is visited by 140,000 children every year. Such school visits are preceded by multiple activities and lessons in the classroom via the zoo’s digital platform. These preparatory classroom activities are designed so that they meet the requirements for the skills and knowledge pupils must be able to master by the end of the schoolyear.
“The visit is usually the last step in that project,” spokesperson Ilse Segers said. “This is about so much more than just looking at animals. There’s a lot more to it,” she said, adding that Flanders’ has some of the most stringent animal welfare regulations in Europe.
The Antwerp Zoo, located just off the city’ Central Station, is one of the oldest and best-conserved zoos in the world. Its Centre for Research and Conservation, one of the world’s most advanced zoological research centres, focuses on animal welfare, breeding programmes and basic zoology research.
Photo: Belga / Zoo Antwerpen/ Jonas Verhulst
surface area in hectares