In Defense of Animals, based in San Rafael, Calif., says it has a membership of 100,000.
The group named the Edmonton Valley Zoo as its worst for 2012 for the ongoing controversy over an aging elephant named Lucy.
Coming in at No. 2 is the Bowmanville Zoo, a privately owned zoo east of Toronto.
IDA spokeswoman Nicole Meyer says scientific research shows that in order to thrive, elephants need space for walking, family social structures and a rich natural environment.
The group says the Edmonton zoo has selfishly condemned Lucy to a solitary life after sending away her companion of 18 years, an elephant named Samantha, in 2007.
"Despite worldwide outrage over Lucy’s plight, the zoo continues to allow Lucy to languish in immense psychological and physical pain," says the IDA.
The City of Edmonton has resisted calls from activist groups and celebrities such as retired "Price is Right" host Bob Barker to move Lucy to an elephant sanctuary in a warmer climate.
Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has said the zoo has had professional advice indicating Lucy would likely die during such a trip.
The zoo in Bowmanville was criticized by the IDA because its sole elephant, Limba, also lives without companionship.
"During the cold winter months, Limba is locked in a tiny cement cell," says the IDA. "If that wasn’t bad enough, the zoo forces Limba to perform tricks in the circus and rents her out for fairs, parades, movies, commercials and parties."
Bowmanville Zoo co-owner Michael Hackenberger has defended the facility in the past, saying Limba is well treated and well loved.
Other zoos condemned by the IDA include the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and the Bronx Zoo in New York.
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