Warning: This post contains graphic images.
Lions get hungry, and zoos euthanize animals more than visitors might wish to realize. But neither fact has insulated the Copenhagen Zoo from international outrage after it put an entirely healthy giraffe to death and fed it to lions as families and children watched.
The giraffe in question, a two-year-old male named Marius, was euthanized to prevent inbreeding, the Associated Press reported. Because the zoo’s breeding program contains other giraffes with similar genes, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria made the recommendation.
Had the story ended there, Marius’s saga would have likely begun and ended in obscurity. It’s the savage display of carnivorism that came next that’s sparked outrage, petitions, and a grim defense from zoo spokespeople. The giraffe’s body was skinned, carved up, and fed to lions while media cameras and children gawked nearby.Animal rights activists, who gathered outside and circulated a petition that gathered 20,000 signatures, were less than amused.
“Breeding programs serve no true conservation purpose because giraffes and other animals born in zoos are rarely, if ever, returned to their natural habitats,” said Jordan Uhl, a PETA spokesperson, in a statement provided to Newsweek. “PETA urges everyone who genuinely cares about animals to avoid zoos and instead donate to campaigns that actually protect animals in their native habitats.”
But the zoo has held firm. “The many reactions don't change our attitude to what we do,” the zoo’s scientific director assured Danish TV2. “We need to have as healthy a stock as possible so we avoid inbreeding.” Zoo spokesperson Tobias Stenbaek Bro went one further, telling the Associated Press that the experience gave children “a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe.”
Photos of that anatomy lesson are readily available online, though it goes without saying that they are thoroughly graphic: