Closing time at Westminster

closed The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) was slammed by the national newspapers on Tuesday for overlooking some pretty awful instances of animal cruelty. In Indonesia, dolphins were made to jump through flaming hoops. In India, elephants were beaten with sticks. And a zoo in Sri Lanka witnessed the death of its entire population of penguins.

But we should look to our own shores before criticising the animal treatment of others. In this country – right before the eyes of its citizens – the state gets away with imposing terrible conditions on a group of animals. At one of the UK’s most prestigious institutions, a troop of monkeys are made to wear suits. Widely-publicised footage shows the animals howling with rage and indignation in an entirely inappropriate enclosure, which appears to be nineteenth century gothic debating chamber.

The leader, a specimen whose abuse has astonishingly resulted in a cut-glass accent, hurls taunts across the floor at an odd-looking character, fed bacon sandwiches against his will. His deputy looks on from the sidelines: the endangered yellow-bellied tit.

Really, the zoo-defenders should turn their attention to The Palace of Westminster.

We live in a representative democracy which, depending on your definition, is some three hundred years old. But still, when we turn the television to BBC Parliament, we see a collection of (mostly) men shouting at each other. Whilst it might seem encouraging that our politicians care enough about legislation to bring themselves to shout abuse, this week’s final Prime Minister’s Questions showed that the arguments are really fuelled by personal disputes and petty political jibes.

The common criticism of politicians, that they’re ‘all the same’, can only be fully dispelled through a true demonstration of maturity. While they behave like animals in Parliament– laughing and jeering at each other – the electorate will struggle to take them seriously. Our politicians debate the most important issues on behalf of millions of people. It would be nice if they took us seriously.

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