Throughout history, the role that zoo’s play, in regard to animal welfare, has changed drastically. From placing the exotics on display solely for the purpose of business, to wildlife education and preservation. This is the current, universal understanding of zoos. However in recent news, perhaps not.

Mid-February, it came to light that Copenhagen Zoo of Denmark had humanely slaughtered their healthy 2 yr old giraffe, Marius, and fed his corpse to lions on display for children to observe and learn from. According to the zoo, Marius was young, healthy, and active. Where is the inconsistency, you may ask? His genetics. The zoo stated that his genes were too common with the majority population of zoo giraffes, and would not be viable for any sort of reproduction. Is this reason enough to put the animal down? Does this condone the animal to be “unhealthy” enough to be euthanized?

This brings up a side argument that has been going on throughout captive animal welfare debates for ages—which is more important: the welfare of individual or the population? In this case, Copenhagen Zoo chose population, but some speculate if it was solely for the spectacle, seeing as Marius would not have directly affected the population, alive or dead (especially if they had castrated him).


In the above photo: lions feast on Marius’s corpse. A mixed crowd of adults and children watching.

Before Marius’s death, there were many attempts to save his life. Several offers from Wildlife Parks and sanctuaries, a petition with thousands of signatures, and a private citizen even offered a whopping $ 700,000 for his life to be spared—and they still continued with the demonstration. The educational value that the zoo believed it was offering was ludicrous, and apparently worth more than $ 700,000! I beg to differ! The zoo’s actions made it clear that the only thing that these children needed to be educated on was that a beautiful and iconic African symbol is worth nothing more than a bullet to the head.

This act did not teach anything natural, and it certainly did not satisfy the lions need to hunt and kill because they did no hunting, nor any killing—because the zoo clearly took care of that themselves.


Above is an image showing lions hunting their prey in the wild.

Educational lessons to be learnt from observing this side of nature would consist of themes like teamwork, reality, and survival–whereas in captivity it teaches children to take shortcuts and to not value life. Zoos cannot teach this part about how nature works and at the same time be humane enough for it to be legal. It is impossible because nature as a whole is not humane, and that notion should be respected among all institutions that pride themselves on the education and conservation of wild animals.

Despite the incredible social roar that it created, no legal action was taken. This brings another question—where do animals stand when it comes to their rights? It is peculiar that most people consider their home pets to be part of the family, however when someone brutally mutilates and murders 29 dogs he is not charged as severely as a man convicted of manslaughter would be. An extreme example, however a very real one, occurring in West Virginia in 2011. The level of legal respect for the animals we coexist with is far too low.

We say we love our animals. But when someone hurts them… There is close to no laws that equally punish an animal offender in comparison to that of a human offender. Marius is a prime example of why our respect for the environment, our beloved pets, and adored wildlife should be better integrated within our judicial system. Marius is also an example of how some social-media grassroots mobilizations are not taken as seriously as most would hope, and discredited as “crazy animal-rights activist BS”. It is clear that their needs to be reform to better protect our wildlife by sewing up loopholes that are left by our state systems, so that what happened to Marius in Copenhagen, will never happen in the United States.


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