Longleat Safari and Adventure Park has defended its decision to put down six lions, saying the decision to humanely euthanise the cats was the only responsible option.

An adult male called Henry, a lioness named Louisa and four of her cubs were all put down last month, supervised by vets.

The safari park in Warminster confirmed it had taken the decision on its Facebook page following an article in the Mail on Sunday, which reported that staff were upset and angry about the move.

Louisa arrived at Longleat in 2011 with a neurological condition, which was believed to be due to poor diet as a cub, meaning there was no reason why she should not be allowed to breed.

However, despite suitable nutrition these neurological signs were present in her cubs, which displayed “odd aggressive behaviour”, and the park reluctantly decided that the only ethical action was to euthanise Louisa and her cubs.

The sixth lion, Henry, had severe injuries following a fight on January 7. His wounds were so severe it was decided euthanasia was the only course of action.

Director of animal operations at Longleat Jon Cracknell said: “The upset at the decision is understandable as it is never a nice situation. We could have given them palliative care, but that would have resulted in them suffering.

“We involved all of our staff and while they were upset, it was unanimously agreed that it was the right course of action.

“The story originated from a disgruntled ex-employee who wasn’t privy to the decision.

“Most of the people who are criticising the park have probably had to make the hard decision to euthanise a pet before when it has become ill and it is certainly not a decision that is taken lightly.”