This time the post is not related to the UK, but the Danish zoos and the article published in The Guardian, just made me write what is my point of view.
Three days ago, in relation to the lion Cecil’s case, I thought about all the animals killed in the Copenhagen Zoo and of the ways in which zoos in general function, and today while browsing the news here we go! There is a continuation of the story – public dissection of a young lioness put down 9 months ago in Oldense Zoo.
So just to refresh the memory… the first widely discussed example of Danish zoos’ practice was Marius, a 18-month old healthy giraffe, who, according to the zoo’s representative, could not be used for breeding, because his genes were too common. Despite the offers from European or American zoos to take the giraffe and an international petition signed by 27 000 people, Marius was shot in his head and his carcass publicly dissected and given to the lions. Four of which, ironically, shared the giraffe’s fate one month later. This time the reason was the arrival of a new male who, as it is common in the animals’ hierarchy, he would kill the old and the too young males. If one of the main purposes of the zoos as it says on the Oldense Zoo’s website is to “ensure breeding with a healthy population generally, and to preserve endangered species”, I am slightly confused with the recent happenings. If putting down a young lion, just because in this case the Zoo does not have enough space (explanation quoted by Der Spiegel), aims to preserve the species, I think that there is a huge misconception of the whole idea.
In my view the main purpose of zoos in general is just exploitation of animals. Deprived of their natural habitats they are kept in artificial conditions for public view and of course for reproduction. Exactly the reproduction is a very important income branch for the zoos and so, at any price they try to create supercubs with healthy genes. It is more profitable either ways, as a commodity to sell the young ones to other zoos, or generally cheaper when it comes to upkeep. This is probably the way how the zoos are able to sustain themselves.
However the Danish ones, seem to find also other way to earn money. They allow reproduction, but once there is no space enough for the animals, they just get rid of the superfluous ones, by killing them and carrying out public dissections, apparently in the name of science. What do the children and the parents learn from that? I would like to know. Is it not enough to tell the children that a giraffe or a lion are mammals, exactly like we are, and show them anatomy books or media visualisation? Are the biology class rooms in Denmark not equipped with specimen in formalin of animals that have been already killed for scientific purposes?
In the interview with Helen Russell Peter Sandøe, professor of bioethics at the University of Copenhagen, said that the tradition of dissection is ca. 400 years old and is a “typical thing to do with school-aged children in the holidays – it can open their eyes to the world of science”. My question is then why not to take the children to a dissection room at the nearest hospital? How fascinating would be to see a human heart or intestines?
The next argument repeated by the Danish representatives of zoos in this whole debate, which seems to be convincing enough for the author of the article, is that zoos have an obligation “not to make nature into a Disney World,”. So why then the whole pursuit for the best and most healthy genes? Are zoos not fairy tales, with happy animals that wait all day long for visitors? The Danish zoos want to break with the Disney myth and enlighten the children on the most cruel part of the nature – ironically, not when a predator kills a prey on a savannah, but when a human being does it in a zoo. If we want to use this logic, why not go with children for a lesson to a slaughter house? In the future, as long as they are not vegetarians, they will probably eat pork or beef, so maybe this knowledge is more useful?
Whereas with Marius the Copenhagen Zoo saved around 200kg healthy meat for carnivores, it is still unknown how much meat was gained out of the dissected lioness, and who will eat it.