A SOUTHEND animal rights champion has re-ignited a campaign to free Chalkwell Park’s peacocks.

Mica Day has launched an online campaign to have the peafowl – peacocks and peahens- removed from their enclosure within the park so they can be retired to a more natural habitat.

The 25-year-old believes it is cruel for the birds to be cooped up and restricted from their natural behaviours of flying, roaming and roosting in trees.

The park currently houses four peafowl in an enclosure, originally there was just two. Peacocks have been kept in the park since the 1950s, possible earlier, as part of a petting zoo which once included monkeys, goats and eventually even a bear. Although over the years the other animals have been removed, the peacock enclosure has remained.

Mica, from Westcliff, who blogs and writes about environmental and animal rights issues, said: “For many people, including myself, seeing these magnificent birds in permanent captivity is saddening and an unpleasant part of the Chalkwell Park experience. They seem in fairly decent condition, but the enclosure is extremely bare and bland and what’s more the space is minuscule for an animal that is genetically made to roam around all day and graze. Frankly the enclosure is pathetic."

Mica says she has spoken to people who have witness aggressive behaviour towards the peacocks- including louts shouting, antagonising and throwing things at the birds through the bars.

“These Peafowl should be retired from their park duties as spectacles for the public. I feel the park hasn't evolved much from housing Lulu the Bear in the 1970's. Not only do these animals have to endure loud noises from the public and flash photography but also they suffer when there are various park events on throughout the year, for instance Village Green at the weekend with lots of music, loud speakers and instruments and children.

“Letting these animals suffer these experiences shows very little regard for their welfare in my eyes.”

Mica, who has vigorously campaigned to get stop SeaWorld attractions from breeding Orca whales, wants the Chalkwell peacocks moved to a more appropriate home.

“Earlier this year I visited Leeds Castle and around the grounds I saw a majestic, healthy, colourful peacock and what’s more he was free to wonder as and when he wanted,” she said.

“ I know the peafowl in the Chalkwell Park enclosure would never be able to wonder around the park because of the risk people would pose, but they do deserve the right to freedom from those four walls.

“There are lots of sanctuaries, stately homes and castles that have Peafowl in their care but they are free to roam around all day every day, these four need an environment like this where they can thrive.”

Mica has re-started a petition on Change.org that was originally founded a few years ago by Vegan Future to free the Chalkwell four. It already has 650 signatures.

She stressed: “Once we hit our signature target we will be putting the petition forward to council members, I am also in talks with animal experts to get some information to help back the campaign to retire these animals.”

Cllr Ann Holland, executive councillor for culture, tourism and the economy, at Southend Council said: “Chalkwell Park has been home to peafowl for many years and the current enclosure is suitable to house four birds. All the peafowl at the park have all been bred in captivity and two of the current birds hatched and fledged at the park. The welfare of the peafowl is very important to the council and the staff who look after them well, and they remain popular with the many visitors to Chalkwell Park.

“We are currently in the process of refurbishing the enclosure ensuring that it continues to provide proper housing for the birds. Anyone is entitled to start and promote a petition, and if submitted it will be dealt with through our petitions scheme.”

*Sign the petition on https://www.change.org/p/southend-council-free-the-chalkwell-park-peacocks

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IT’S hard to fathom now but Chalkwell Park was once home to an array of animals from the early half of the 20th century up to the 1970’s - the most famous of which became a black male bear named Lulu.

Lulu was kept in a cage little more than twice his size within the pet’s corner area of the park during the late sixties/ early seventies. It is thought he was found abandoned in a crate at Tilbury Docks and was eventually taken to Chalkwell Park to exist as a visitor attraction.

The lonely and cruel conditions that Lula was kept in, however, eventually raised concerns amongst local people and experts from London Zoo visited the park and demanded his cage be extended.

Chimpanzees, monkeys, goats and exotic birds including the peafowl were also part of the animal compound.

Mica said: “Chalkwell Park has come on leaps and bounds in the last ten years and it is really is looking wonderful now but I can’t understand why the council would want to keep these four animals locked up in an enclosure for the reset of their lives. It seems incredibly old fashioned and brings an air of the barbaric Zoo from the seventies back.”

In January folk group Gluepot, whose lead singer is the Sheffield based singer-songwriter Neil McSweeney, released an album entitled ‘Lulu the Bear and Other Songs’. The title track is written from Lulu’s perspective of being reduced to an object of curiosity for park-goers. It features the lyrics: “I can see myself passing through the bars of this prison” and poignantly: “I wait till the midnight hour, the silence of the park and all the children gone, it is then that I awake my soul for all things to come.”