Dubai police banned two demonstrators from animal rights group PETA from starting a protest branding zoos as "animal prisons" on Thursday, saying they were not authorised.
Dressed in prison suits and sporting monkey masks, the two activists of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals marched down the road next to Dubai Zoo carrying banners reading "Zoos: Cruel Animal Prisons."
"We want to talk about what's going on inside the zoo," senior PETA campaigner, Ashley Fruno said, addressing an adamant policeman.
"The zoo has a governement taking care of it," the unrelenting officer replied, reminding the activists that demonstrations in Dubai are not allowed "without permission."
The activists, including PETA director Jason Baker, said they had applied for a permit two weeks ago, and that the request was turned down by the municipality.
"It's very sad that we're being turned away. All we're trying to do is to spread a message of compassion and to tell people 'please if you care about animals don't go to the zoo,'" Baker told AFP.
"We're trying to convey the message that animals in the zoos are suffering and we want to educate the people of Dubai that what's happening in the zoo is unacceptable," Fruno said.
The lobby group's activists charged that animals in Dubai zoo are lacking water, food, and space to move around, saying that the 20,000 square metres (215,000 square feet) into which some 80 animals are fitted leave the creatures in deteriorating health conditions.
Fruno said those in charge of the zoo "are aware of the problems" and are aware that "there's no enrichment in their cages ... yet they're not making any changes."
The Canadian activist described the zoo as "a black eye on the face of a progressive and developed Dubai."
"We've been pushing for improvements to the animal welfare law and there has been some progress," Baker said. "The animal welfare law started around a year ago here. That was an improvement, but it's not enough as it doesn't cover most animals."
The group's next stop will be Cairo, where they are planning to promote vegetarianism.
Source: AFP Global Edition