1. ITV Report

Devon zoo defends letting children play tug of war with lions and tigers

Dartmoor Zoo's tiger playing tug of war. Credit: ITV News West Country

A Devon zoo has defended its decision to allow children to play tug of war with lions and tigers following criticism from animal rights groups.

Children as young as eight can take part in the “human versus beast challenge”, which was launched at Dartmoor Zoo earlier this month.

From £15 per person, participants can take on a big cat in an activity zoo-keepers insist the animals find “enriching”.

But animal rights groups have criticised the zoo, suggesting it shows a lack of respect.

In a tweet, The Born Free Foundation said: “Is a tug of war with a lion or tiger really the best way to inspire respect for these animals? Retweet to urge the zoo to rethink this!”

Competitors can take on either the zoo’s male tiger Dragan or its male lion Jasirir.

Meat is attached to a rope to bait the animals, which are kept in their enclosure, while participants take up the other end of the rope on the other side of the fence.

Benjamin Mee. Credit: ITV News West Country

You musn’t be dissuaded from doing something that’s good for animals just because a few people don’t fully understand.

I’ve spoken to five different vets yesterday, including Defra and the British Zoological Veterinary Association, and they all said it’s absolutely, definitively good for the animals.

– Benjamin Mee