Why Is This Zoo Giving Acupuncture to a Lion?

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An 11-year-old, 418 pound Asiatic lion named Lucifer who lives at a UK zoo has a sore foot. He's been given acupuncture, despite the complete inefficacy of the procedure.

According to The Independent, Lucifer had a tumor removed from his foot. One of the wounds from his surgery was having trouble healing. The zoo's apparent solution? In part, dozens of needles placed into his leg.

Ms Grint, a specialist in veterinary anaesthesia and analgesia, has previously only used acupuncture on dogs, with Lucifer her first cat patient.

"We are using acupuncture to decrease pain and improve blood flow to the site, helping the healing process," she said.

She inserted needles at 1in (2.5cm) intervals around Lucifer's wound in a technique called "ringing the dragon".

The needles remained in Lucifer's foot for around 15 minutes, while other experts examined the wound.

Jo Reynard, veterinary associate at Paignton Zoo, said: "We're using gas anaesthesia and all the usual medical painkillers. The acupuncture is simply being used opportunistically, as an adjunct to conventional therapy in the hope that it might help the wound heal."


It's good to know that the zoo isn't relying only on acupuncture, and is also treating the lion, which, by the way, is classified as Endangered by the IUCN, with empirical, science-based veterinary medicine. The Paignton Zoo is an accredited member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Speaking of which, here's what the great Science Based Medicine website has to say about acupuncture.

In layman's terms, acupuncture does not work – for anything.

This has profound clinical, ethical, scientific, and practical implications. In my opinion humanity should not waste another penny, another moment, another patient – any further resources on this dead end. We should consider this a lesson learned, cut our losses, and move on.


It's one thing for humans to make their own decisions about receiving scientifically baseless therapies, but to subject non-human animals to them strikes me as a rampant violation of every tenet of animal welfare.

Header image: Madhusudhan Nanjappa/Wikimedia Commons