Do any of you remember when I wrote about Marius, the giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo that was killed when he was only 2 years old because he was deemed to be “surplus?” If not, I urge you to click on this link for a refresher. If you don’t have the time to read the full article, here’s the short and sweet version: The Copenhagen Zoo encouraged their giraffes to breed… lo and behold Marius was brought into the world. However, after zoo doctors found Marius’ genes to be too common (common, not inbred) for breeding, they shot him in the head, dissected him in front of a crowd (of mostly children) and fed his meat to lions. Who cares that nearby wildlife parks offered to take him off their hands? Who cares that there was a public outcry? Who cares that it seems hypocritical that a breeding program would decrease the population of a species it is trying to save? And what about the four lions who ended up feasting on Marius’ remains — which included two young cubs — this same zoo killed them not long after they offed Marius, because they had to make room for just one incoming alpha male?
Who cares about those trivial little questions? Well, let’s just move on to what’s going on at the Copenhagen Zoo NOW, shall we? Oh look, a brand new baby giraffe was just born there (in September 2016). Yes, you read that correctly. A mere two years after one giraffe was killed because he was a “surplus animal” the zoo breeds another of the exact same animal. You’d think this means that they have their surplus problem all figured out and this latest birth is guaranteed a long, healthy life. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. As a spokesman for the zoo states, there’s no guarantee that this new baby giraffe won’t end up with the same fate as Marius. They’re admitting that, yeah, they might kill this one off as well if things don’t work out the way they want them to.
But that may not happen. This giraffe might make it to the ripe old age or 3, 4, maybe even 5! It just won’t be at the Copenhagen Zoo. When the little guy hits 2 years old he might get shipped off to another zoo like a product ordered off Amazon. Although that’s not a guarantee.
Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that there are some zoos that do a great job at saving endangered animals, but it’s a Catch-22 because most zoos, as they are now, are simply not great for the animals. They’re having success in breeding, but look at what the animals are being bred into. They’re pretty much led straight from the womb to a guillotine. You might say this cycle of systematic culling is simply a European practice I cannot abide, but it’s not. Zoos right here in the US regularly sell surplus animals or euthanize them. Which begs the important question, why? Why breed so-called surplus animals in the first place?
Okay, yes, strides for bettering the treatment of animals are being made. Take circuses for examples. Their animal acts, if not wholly banned, are much more tightly regulated now than in the past. However, Barnum & Bailey just sent their elephants to a “sanctuary” that also happens to run experiments on the animals in the name of science (cancer research). So, while they’re not chained to posts or crammed into claustrophobic train cars or forced to do stupid acts for a crowd, did they really win? Who knows the extent of the research they are subjected to. All I know is that the phrase “testing on animals” rarely means something good is going on. While perhaps the research facility may not be a house of horrors, I can’t imagine it’s as good as living on an actual sanctuary where they have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and be all elephant-y.
Barnum & Bailey got rid of their big cat act, too. Don’t applaud just yet. In an effort to make a final buck on these animals, they’ve been sold to other circuses and events who DO still perform animal acts. God knows what their living conditions will be. So, it’s really just trading one set of terrible owners for another. What gets me is that with all the millions of dollars Barnum & Bailey have made off these animals, they could at least have given them a proper retirement. It’d be a nice way to say, “thanks for making it through the years of abuse.” But no. Instead, the circus, yet another greedy corporation, milked every last penny they could out of their elephants and tigers, their well-being be damned.
Say what you will about their diet and environments, but animals in captivity are just that, captive prisoners. When humans decide to interfere with wildlife to such a degree that the animals are entirely dependent, with their very existence depending on the whims of bureaucratic policy, whether it’s a circus or a zoo, then those humans have a solemn responsibility to those animals – their lives should not come down to being deliberately bred into “surplus” only to be cut short or being exploited for a lifetime only to be sold into yet another version of servitude.
At what point are they allowed to simply be a lion, a giraffe, an elephant? By the looks of it, in many cases, the answer is never. To me, that is just an unacceptable answer.