The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Giraffe’s brutal death by zoo is both shocking and unnecessary

4 min read
On Sunday, Feb. 9, the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, anaesthetized and then shot a two-year-old giraffe known as Marius. His body was then publicly autopsied, dismembered and served it to the carnivores at the zoo.

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On Sunday, Feb. 9, the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, anaesthetized and then shot a two-year-old giraffe known as Marius. His body was then publicly autopsied, dismembered and served it to the carnivores at the zoo.

In an interview with CNN, Bengt Holst, director of research and conservation at the Copenhagen Zoo, said the zoo had no other options as Marius was a “surplus.”

The first injustice concerning this event is the fact that Marius was shot, and probably suffered rather than being humanely anesthetized by injection. The zoo’s website claimed Marius could not be completely “euthanized with an overdose of aesthetic.” High doses of these chemicals injected into his body would taint the meat of his flesh, rendering it useless for this purpose.

The fact that the zoo was more concerned with feeding their carnivores than caring for the actual animal in question implies that there was no compassion in this devastating act.

Should not the carnivores already have a steady supply of meat coming to them? Why did an innocent animal have to inhumanely suffer so he could then be served as dinner?

According to the zoo’s website, consuming the remains of dead animals “helps to serve the natural cycle of nature,” but is there anything natural about Marius’ death?

Another aspect that created controversy in the death of Marius is that his autopsy and dismemberment was publicized. Holst claimed that the public autopsy was for the purpose of education. Holst said the public deserved the real thing rather than the “Disney version.”

“The real thing is that animals sometimes die,” said Holst. While some do die on a daily basis, many die on their own—they are definitely not shot, dismembered and turned into lion chow or sent in pieces to laboratories throughout Denmark and elsewhere.

The Copenhagen Zoo claims, that “We do this in order to gain new knowledge about the animals and to prevent diseases,” yet no information has been published on Marius’s autopsy. If the event was publicized, so too should the information supposedly collected from this horrific experience as justification of this heinous act.

Other zoos were disqualified as viable options because they did not participate in the same program and were not a part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) which has over 300 members. Of those members, supposedly none were potential matches for Marius because of the possibility of inbreeding. EAZA members agree to “following rules of not selling animals, working on a scientific basis and ensuring animal welfare.”

Yet the policies of EAZA excluded Marius from transferring to other zoos simply because they were not members of the association, and they condoned Copenhagen’s decision to kill him. How does this treatment “ensure” Marius’s welfare?

The Copenhagen Zoo’s website claims sterilization was not an option because contraceptives have side effects and they want to maintain natural procreation.

However, are not all animals in captivity subject to unnatural procreation because their only mating choices are the selection of mates the zoo forces them to live with?

The zoo argues that parenting is an integral part of a giraffe’s life cycle and that sterilization would leave that giraffe with a void, but there is something backward with a zoo saying that a life without parenting is worse than no life at all.

Holst said “Sterilize him and he still takes up space for genetically more valuable material […] the population will go down and we’ll have no animals left.” However, if Holst keeps killing off animals that are not considered genetically valuable, he will also end up with no more animals. By classifying the animals as “valuable” and non-valuable, Holst does not appear to have any sense of compassion for any of the animals under his care.

Did the Copenhagen Zoo really exhaust all their options? They could have prevented Marius from ever being born as opposed to killing him after raising him for two years.

They could have taken one less giraffe from the wild and they would then have a space for Marius. Could they have kept him somewhere separate from the “valuable” giraffes, at least until another home was found for him? Could they have kept him as an alternate, should the need arise for another male giraffe at Copenhagen or any other zoo in the EAZA? And really, could they not bend the rules and allow him to transfer to a non-EAZA zoo for the sake of sparing an innocent life this one time to prevent such an inhumane sacrifice?

In the same CNN interview as Holst, Mirja Holm Thansen, Chairwoman for the Organization Against the Suffering of Animals argue that “Zoos operate like any other animal entertainment industry, they just argue that they have an ethical purpose.” The actions of the Copenhagen Zoo seem to support this allegation as Marius’s death and public autopsy appear to be more for the sake of people’s entertainment.

Anyone that justifies the murder of Marius is a true animal.