Bindi, Robert and Terri Irwin taking time out with a dingo.
Bindi, Robert and Terri Irwin taking time out with a dingo. Amber Hooker

PETA caught out in Australia Zoo cruelty claims

ONE of Australia's key animal welfare groups has been caught out spreading misinformation about Australia Zoo's care for its animals.

Officials from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have acknowledged they made a mistake when they claimed the zoo was putting the welfare of animals at risk by taking them to America last week.

But they have blamed the error on the zoo's own publicity and have since failed to respond to questions about whether they checked their facts before condemning the zoo.

The controversy arose last weekend when PETA Australia's associate director, Ashley Fruno, issued a statement accusing the zoo of cruelty for taking animals to Los Angeles for the Steve Irwin Gala Dinner.

"Overlooking the fact that these animals belong in their natural environment and not at a cocktail party (or in a zoo for that matter), this year they face a minimum of 26 hours on a plane followed by quarantine periods," Ms Fruno said.

"The party is expensive enough without this kind of costly cruelty."

But an Australia Zoo spokesman hit back, saying the claim was completely inaccurate as none of the zoo's animals had been taken to LA.

Instead, the animals had been borrowed from American facilities.

"Through the relationships we've built both in Australia and around the world as one of the best wildlife conservation organisations, we've gained partners and friends in the industry who share our stance on conservation and education," the zoo spokesman said.

"We're able to call on these partners to help out by bringing their animals to represent our cause as part of conservation initiatives such as the Steve Irwin Gala Dinner held last week in LA.

"We strive as an organisation to bring people closer to wildlife so they can fall in love with them and want to save them from extinction in the wild.

"Our priority is wildlife and through our work we save thousands of animals from cruel deaths every day around the world from things like poison, guns, snares etc.

"Education about how incredible animals are through interactions and why it's so important to save them are what we're all about."

A PETA spokesman blamed Facebook posts from the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors page which "made it appear as though the wildlife would be transported from Australia".

She pointed to a line which said guests at the LA event would "come up close to Australian wildlife as our khaki crew roam the room".

"If that's not the case, we are very pleased to hear it!," the spokesman said.

"However our position remains exactly the same, the animals would still find this event stressful and should not be used as props."

Despite several approaches by the Daily, PETA failed to respond to questions about the steps it took to ensure the accuracy of its public statements.

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