The fate of Marius the giraffe points to a future where only animals of genetic interest will be protected. Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe was shot to death last Sunday in Copenhagen zoo, despite being in good health, because his genes were sufficiently well represented in the giraffe population across Europe.
The zoo has justified the killing of the giraffe by its membership of an international programme, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, whose standards dictate that only unrelated animals are allowed to breed. In addition, its membership of the programme means adoption can only take place where the adoptive zoo also subscribes to the programme. Whilst the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria said zoo animals were very rarely killed for conservation management they were fully supportive of the zoo’s decision.
Despite nearly 30,000 signatures pleading for Marius to be spared, offers from other zoos and even private individuals offering up to €500,000 to adopt the giraffe the zoo chose to go ahead with the killing on Sunday in front of a large audience including children, followed by an autopsy streamed live over the internet billed as an educational opportunity. Marius was not killed via a lethal injection so that his meat would be safe and his remains were then fed publically to the zoo’s lions and other big cats.
Animal rights activists have argued that the growing emphasis on science over animal welfare means that animals like Marius, are at risk once they pass the cute baby animal phase. The killing of a healthy giraffe and the presentation of his dissection as a spectacle, demonstrates a potential danger whereby zoos in the future may move too far from animal welfare, concentrating more on the scientific make up of an animal than on the animal as a living creature with rights of its own.
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