Plymouth Albion rugby team in Dartmoor Zoo lion tug-of-war

Footage shows how the Plymouth Albion rugby team helped promote a controversial new attraction at Dartmoor Zoo.

The big cat tug-of-war has been criticised by animal rights groups has branded as disrespectful to animals.

Zoo visitors are charged £15 to try and pull a piece of meat out of the mouth of either a lion or a tiger.

The rugby club said it had placed its trust in the zoo after being told it was "an activity that was safe and would improve the animals overall wellbeing".

It said team members were asked to pull in "short bursts" between three and five seconds long, to encourage the animal to respond, and "engage their natural instinct to hunt".

The zoo said visitor engagement was an "important part of developing empathy with and respect for zoo animals".

"Well-managed big cat tug of war activities offer lions the opportunities to engage in a physically and mentally challenging activity.

"Such activities are a well-recognised part of the evolving improvements in animal welfare that we see in modern zoo facilities," the zoo added.

BBC News