Animal charity groups have responded furiously after shocking images emerged of dogs trapped in a squalid zoo enclosure in China where they were being showcased as lions.
The animal rights organisation Peta branded the treatment of the creatures as "awful," and demanded that more be done to phase out zoos.
"Pretending to be a lion is about as good as it gets for any animal in the grim reality of everyday life in a zoo," a spokesman said, stating "deception is the norm at many zoos."
"The public is constantly told that zoos are preserving endangered species but they are really simply warehousing sensitive animals in conditions that do not and cannot compare to their natural habitat or satisfy their natural behaviour," he added.
"It's time to phase out zoos and start putting funds into the preservation of animals' homelands, just as chimpanzee tea parties were phased out once people realised that they weren't any fun for the chimps."
Cash-strapped zoo officials at the Chinese zoo have now been forced to apologise and claimed the mix-ups, including two giant sea cucumbers being passed off as snakes and the replacement of snakes with rats, only occurred because they couldn't afford the real thing.
But Peta claimed the zoo's lapse in standards is far from an isolated incident.
"China is particularly awful, in terms of feeding live animals to other animals in zoos and forcing animals in captivity to perform painful tricks such as riding bicycles, walking on stilts and standing on their heads as people gawp and giggle," they said.
"Undercover investigations have documented animals in Chinese zoos being routinely abused behind the scenes, but China is not alone: we have seen animals in zoos kept in windowless rooms behind the scenes, artificially inseminated and swapped away from their lifelong mates, siblings and friends."
Shruti Suresh, Wildlife Campaigner with the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) also lambasted China's "abusive" treatment of animals, and highlighted how the Government should be doing more to limit such cruelty.
“Unfortunately, there are many such facilities throughout China which keep captive animals but which have no educational or conservation value whatsoever."Suggest a correction