Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Disappointing and extremely concerning' - Tayto Park music festival plans slammed by animal charities

Tayto Park (stock photo)
Tayto Park (stock photo)
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

ANIMAL welfare charities have slammed Meath County Council for giving a music festival at Tayto Park the green light.

The ISPCA and Born Free Foundation said animals living in the amusement park’s zoo are likely to suffer considerable stress due to the loud music at the inaugural FunFest family festival on June 29 and 30.

The groups have written to the local authority saying it is irresponsible to allow the musical festival to go ahead, stating that zoos have a duty to protect the animals in their care.

“The ISPCA is very disappointed that Meath County Council has ignored the concerns of captive animal welfare experts and have given the go-ahead for this event,” said the charity’s chief executive Dr Andrew Kelly.

“At the very least we believe that a condition of the licence should include the presence of a specialised zoo veterinary surgeon to monitor the well-being of the animals.”

Dr Chris Draper, head of animal welfare and captivity at Born Free, said the organisation is “extremely concerned” to learn the festival is going ahead.

“Once the festival begins, there will be little that can be done to protect any animals that become stressed,” he said.

“Zoos and local councils must give more thought to the type of events they permit to take place in future, and prioritise animal welfare over profit.”

According to Tayto Park’s website, a host of entertainers from the worlds of music, circus, family entertainment, dance and art will appear.

Top Irish band Hudson Taylor will headline the main stage on the Sunday, with international acts Rak-Su and Heather Small topping the bill on Saturday. One of Ireland’s most popular entertainers, Nathan Carter, will be a special guest on Sunday.

Two big top tents will also host a variety of children’s entertainers, including jugglers, circus performers and dancers.

Tayto Park is home to a variety of exotic animals, such as the Amur tiger and the American ocelot.

The zoo has a growing primate collection which includes squirrel monkeys, red-bellied tamarins, Goeldi’s monkeys and the critically endangered Sulawesi crested macaque.

A spokesperson for Meath County Council told it is not aware of anything in the planning legislation that would require the council to consider animal welfare issues when considering a music event licence application.

“It is respectfully suggested this is a matter that should be taken up with the promoters of the event and the owners of the facility,” the spokesperson said.

Tayto park issued a lengthy statement in response to the concerns, stating the zoo will be closed to the public during the festival, and staging for the festival is not located in the zoo.

"The welfare of the animals in our care is always a top priority. Keepers and behavioural scientists monitor the animals during all of our events to assure animal wellbeing.

"The Welfare action plan we developed was created utilizing scientific research, as well as anecdotal evidence from experienced and long established zoos that have such events, combined with our extensive knowledge of the individual animals we house at Tayto Park. All of this was done to guarantee that there would be no disturbance to the animals in our care here in Tayto Park.

"Tayto Park Funfest is a family friendly event that will end at 21:30. However the Zoo section will be closed at 19:00 as per normal. Staff will be present to ensure that no member of the public will gain access to the zoo during the evening ‘after hours’ event.

"The stage and music is not located in the zoo. It is located in an open field to the North east of the Viking Voyage on the other side of the Hurley River. The animal enclosures closest in proximity to the event are at least a half a kilometer away indeed the Fun Fest stage is actually outside the perimeter of Tayto Park.

"The sound system will be oriented away from the zoo.  Speakers will hang with a downward tilt to cover the audience and reduce the throw into the zoo and for that matter our residential areas.  Any sub-woofer speakers will be located at stage level.

"During the amplified event; noise levels, inclusive of sound checks, and rehearsals on the Fun Fest stage will be monitored. Protocols will be in place to ensure dB levels do not exceed our Noise Management Protocols. This will be monitored throughout by our experienced animal care staff and dedicated veterinarian team, all of whom have the welfare of the animals as a priority.

"All of our animals have unrestricted access to interior and exterior aspects of their enclosure at all times.  Each interior house enables each individual animal to avoid visitors as well as other visual and auditory stimuli they may wish to evade. Animals are given full choice and control over their environment and while they have comfort and shelter inside and out, it’s not uncommon for certain animals to remain outside during an event.   

"We appreciate the concerns shared by Born Free and the ISPCA. Had either organisation made contact with Tayto Park, management would have been very happy to share the above information with them."


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