In Rotherhithe, at Surrey Docks, we have a terrific little farm where kids can go and interact with the animals. They get to muck out stables, collect eggs, milk cows etc. There is a little café and a working blacksmith - its a great resource.
So I thought I would take George to Brussels' equivilant, the Maximillian Park, just by Yser metro station. It is not quite the same.
I'm not sure what educational benefit there is in having 3 sheep surrounded by an electric fence, and the donkeys looked somewhat distressed to me. One of the goats was a bit lively, and feeding it an apple we scrumped from a nearby tree was the sum total of the interaction that was possible.
Possibly the saddest sight of all was what I can only describe as a hump-backed rabbit. It was either crossbred with a camel, or it had a cyst on it's back that must account for 20% of it's body weight.
The staff all appeared bored and indifferent, and I suspect they may not have much training in the animal field.
Its not often I would say this, but I do agree with the legislation that decrees that the primary function of a zoo should be education. The Maximillian Park appears to offer some courses in the Summertime, but I am not sure how interesting they may be given the dilapidated state of the premises and the livestock. When this legislation first became binding, the future looked bleak for Battersea Park zoo, until donors stepped in and saved the day. Its a shame that in Brussels, where the legislation emanated from, they are not so quick to apply the same standards that are demanded of the other member states.
Brussels has a bad record when it comes to zoos. Park Leopold used to be the city zoo, and it is now chiefly remembered for the appalling treatment of its elephant. Antwerp zoo, however, is very good and always well worth a visit.
If you do visit Maximillian park, ignore the bit on the website about it being open until 10pm during the summer - we were asked to leave at 4.50 pm because they were closing.