British singer Morrissey called on the Indonesian government on Tuesday to immediately shut down a notorious zoo in eastern Java where hundreds of animals have died or disappeared.
The former frontman of seminal indie band The Smiths, whose 1985 album is entitled “Meat is Murder,” made the request in a letter to Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan before a solo performance in Jakarta on Thursday.
“Your ministry called for a change at the Surabaya Zoo, but no improvements have been made,” the vegetarian and animal rights activist wrote in the letter, made available to AFP by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“There can be no justification for seemingly endless debates and delays while animals continue to suffer and die. Please take immediate action to close the Surabaya Zoo and transfer its animals to more suitable environments.”
The official Antara news agency said last year that the zoo — Indonesia’s largest — had turned into a “place of horror” and “death camp” for animals, while a zoo spokesman said in March some 500 animals died there in 2010 and 2011.
In March, the zoo’s last remaining giraffe was found dead with a 20-kilogram ball of plastic in its stomach, believed to have formed from years of visitors throwing food wrappers into the pen.
Before that, a critically endangered Sumatran tiger died at the zoo and three baby Komodo dragons that disappeared were believed to have been stolen and sold on the black market.
But the forestry ministry, which took over the zoo’s management in 2010, told AFP on Tuesday that the problems at the zoo had been overblown, and there were no plans to close it down.
“We have been trying to improve the welfare of the animals by setting up an independent team involving experts,” the forestry ministry’s biodiversity conservation director Bambang Novianto told AFP.
“It’s true that there have been some animal deaths at the Surabaya Zoo caused by overcapacity and a lack of proper facilities, but many of the animals at the zoo just died of old age.”