AMONG a myriad of attractions offered by Jerez, one of the more surprising is a zoo.
The animal metropolis contains an enormous range of livestock. From the three wise men’s camels, chattering parrots to the humongous hippos, there is something for everyone. Any ardent animal lover will be spoilt for choice. Already a hit with the locals, a quick visit immediately reveals some disturbing facts about attitudes towards these creatures.
Entry costs seven euros each, and the zoo is open Tuesday to Sunday (yes, this actually opens on Sunday!) until 7pm. Parents from Jerez take their children to teach them about the diversity of animal life, and take a break.
The cafe is a much favored watering hole amongst parents. Whilst children tumble down slides and whack each other with sticks, parents get roaring drunk on a choice selection of beers and Jerez fine wines.
Upon my visit, I noticed that one table was bedecked with over twenty empty Cruzcampo bottles, a local beer favourite.
The cafe is often buzzing with adults seeking some alcoholic refill.
Venturing out into the caged wilderness, the situation does not improve much. Blatantly ignoring a ‘Please do not Feed’ sign, one family started handing peanuts to the parrots. The father picked up his child to get him closer to the parrots, conveniently covering the sign’s message with his infant.
The squawking of the parrots betrayed the fact that this is not an uncommon occurrence.
Walking past a variety of bird cages, you are instantly greeted by cawing and expectant faces, a clear sign of the regular ‘illegal’ feeding.
A similar situation exists with the hippo enclosure. Whilst enjoying the magnificent spectacle, some visitors observed a man with a fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth hurling apples at the hippos.
The larger hippo, crushing its miniature friend, opened its mouth to catch them.
Anyone that visits the hippo cage is greeted by a gaping mouth. Although bedazzling, this display is a ploy to get some food.
Perhaps you fancy leaving your child behind? Well, now you can. One parent was witnessed hoisting a child over the barrier for the emu enclosure. The birds went insane, and so did the child.
‘Don’t worry dear, we’ve got two more at home’, seems like the expected explanatory phrase.
The somewhat inconsiderate behaviour of people in this outstanding attraction shows no sign of abating. It raises some important questions about the attitude of people towards animals.
“We are better than animals. They can’t answer philosophical questions”, responded one Jerezano to the question of human and animal equality.
“We may be better, but it is moral to treat animals as our equals”, commented a student at Cadiz university.
There are clearly some divisions in opinion as to animals place in Jerez society. Their treatment at Jerez zoo is a telling example that they could well be seen more as entertainment, than as our equals.