Party animals take the London Zoo at night. Prisoners do not have fun.

A man served beer in a tiger. Another pulled off his shirt and tried to enter the penguin pool. The music rang and the drinks flowed. Those were some of the scenes described during the 2014 season of London The zoo-only night event for adults, which is advertised as a way to bring people closer to animals outside of the normal zoo hours and to raise funds for conservation.

Tickets for the Friday sessions, which are held every summer and are called Zoo Nights, start at 20 pounds, or about $ 25, and since 2017 have generated more than 1 million pounds in revenue. The funds are used for international conservation projects and efforts to combat them. Illegal trade, and loss of habitat.

But activists say that mixing alcohol and music in sessions is detrimental to the animals that serve as the backdrop. Jordi Casamitjana, senior campaign manager of the PETA group in Great Britain, said: It is very obvious that it is an exercise driven by the benefit ... There is no way to organize these events without causing stress to the animals.

A petition calling for the event’s cancellation has garnered more than 100,000 signatures, citing a constellation of problems that were detailed by British daily The Guardian in its investigation in 2014. After that report, authorities in London opened an inquiry but found no evidence of violations. “No visitor ever injured an animal, nor got into an animal enclosure,” said in an emailed statement. “Zoo Nights, like all events held during the day or after hours, is carefully planned to ensure that our animals are always well looked after.”

Promoted as an opportunity to see what the natural kingdom does after hours, the event allows visitors to make guided tours of the park, attend talks organized by zookeepers, listen to live music and walk through different stalls at a festival. atmosphere. On the opening night of the 2019 season, women dressed as zebras strolled on stilts and children were noticeably absent.

The visitors walked through the precincts with drinks in hand. Music pulsed from the speakers in the background.

Attendees at the opening night said they had mixed feelings. Daniel Wood, 25, said he had no major concerns about the event, but expressed some concern about pop music emanating from nearby speakers. It's quite noisy, and I'm not sure how much the lion appreciates Dua Lipa, he said.

Outside the zoo entrance, about a dozen protesters had gathered, singing, what a shame, when the visitors entered. Some of the protesters held signs with the message: The captivity is not captivating, in red letters.

Donald Broom, professor emeritus of animal welfare at the University of Cambridge, praised the educational value of Zoo Nights but said there was room for improvement. Encouraging more people to take an interest in animals is a good thing ... It can be done in such a way that there is no negative effect on the animals, he said, adding that he felt the music should be activated. outside, for example.