ZOO chiefs have accused the Born Free Foundation of attempting to become self-appointed inspectors.
The British and Irish Association of Zoos is angry the animal charity has criticised the current system in a report.
It says the group, which opposes animals being kept in zoos, confuses zoos with circuses and the exotic pet trade.
It says it is wrong for a group ethically opposed to zoos to have a say in how they should be run.
A spokesman for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria said:
“As the regional and national zoo associations, with strong commitment to ensuring their members have the highest levels of welfare, we are concerned that the report groundlessly conflates the keeping of animals at zoos with the exotic pet trade and travelling circuses.”
They go on to say
“The Born Free Foundation aims to position itself as an inspectorate and suggest an independent system should not prioritise the views of animal rights groups who are ideologically opposed to zoos”.
The row blew up after the wildlife charity called for an independent inspectorate following the granting of a new licence to South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria, UK.
The zoo had come under criticism for the deaths of 486 animals in its care.
Zoo licences in the UK are issued by local authorities and inspections take place annually, with a formal inspection by a government-appointed zoo inspector every three to four years.
Chris Draper, Born Free’s director of animal welfare, claimed that the individuals who carry out inspections are often either “affiliated to the zoo industry or zoo curators”.
He said: “We don’t want to be an independent inspectorate. “We want there to be an independent inspectorate.”