Last sunday, a group of lions ate a giraffe. Last sunday, an animal was slaughtered by having a bolt shot in his head. Last sunday, people totally lost it and sent death threats to people for killing a giraffe, while remaining silent about the oppression of their fellow human beings.
As you might have heard, the giraffe Marius was killed, dissected in front of an audience including young children and then partially fed to lions. The Copenhagen Zoo did this for reasons that seem horribly bureaucratic, but do make some sense to me. Other zoos offered to take the young bull, but Copenhagen denied or didn’t respond to this and proceeded with the killing.
A lot of people got really angry about this. Beforehand, they started a petition to stop the slaughtering from happening and afterwards started another one, demanding the resignation of the person responsible for it. They abhorred the idea of the killing and the dissecting of the animal in front of children. Everybody and their momma wanted to save this one giraffe. Zoo staffers even received death threats. And all the while I ask myself: WTF?
These are my main problems:
1) A zoo is not the natural habitat of giraffes or any other animal. The Copenhagen Zoo people did not go to wherever giraffes come from and kill some wild bull. They killed an animal that had been bred and born in captivity. This kinda sucks, yes, but a zoo is not a good thing, not a paradise for animals to begin with. If you are really invested in the right to life of an animal, you should rethink your understanding of what a zoo is. It is basically a prison, in which animals are caged and sometimes trained. A zoo is the opposite of natural. The point of a zoo is exploiting animals for our pleasure. I understand that zoos are often the last place species threatened by extinction can survive. But that doesn’t really say anything about my point, as I think zoos are exploitation and should be stopped just as much as the destruction of the natural habitat of animals must be stopped. Zoos are not were animals should be held, just as much as they are not where humans should be held.
2) You really only get to be offended by the killing and public dissection of Marius, if you are a vegan or vegetarian. (I am neither.) Marius was shot in the head with a bolt while bending down to eat from the hand of one of his ‘wardens’. On a ‘cruel murder’ scale, this qualifies as better than how millions of cows and pigs are killed, for the sole reason that a familiar, warm smile was the last thing Marius saw, while the cows and pigs only did smell the blood of their fellow cows and pigs before they were hit with the bolt. If I had to choose how to be killed, I would of course fight you with all the power left in me, but I would still understand that a smile is a better last thing to see than a fellow being dropping lifelessly to the floor. Why is the death of a random giraffe, brought upon in the same way as the death of millions of other animals, so much more offensive to people? Why are there no mass protests in front of every slaughterhouse in the Western world? Don’t answer that, I know the answer. Hypocrisy. Giraffes are cute, they appear in movies and we don’t eat them. Only cute animals which are killed for other reasons than our nourishment are worth getting upset about. If we were to worry about the cows, we might have to change our habits.
3) I see no problem with kids watching a giraffe being dissected. (Apart from the ‘zoos are prisons’ and ‘seriously, all meat is basically murder’ problem addressed before.) I sure as hell wouldn’t watch and I wouldn’t actively take my children, but if they wanted to see it or someone else (you know who you are!) took them, I’d be fine with that. For millenia, children have seen how animals were slaughtered and their meat prepared to be eaten. They knew how this worked. We in the last couple of generations didn’t want our children to witness such acts. But why should they not know what their burger meat did and how it looked before it got its new promising job at McDonald’s? We do not respect meat, its price and what it means to eat meat because we are able to ignore how it gets into our supermarkets! I think vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians can all agree that your decision to eat or not eat meat (and other animal products), is better founded if you actually have an idea of how it comes to be on your plate.
In closing: I do not know, if the decision of the zoos to kill the giraffe was absolutely necessary or if an alternative was overlooked or ignored. To me the reasoning of the zoos seems rather sound. However, I would have prefered if the animal had lived. In freedom. And I would prefer, if all people got at least as much upset about the politics that bring hardship, suffering and death upon their fellow human beings and all animals, no matter what species they might come from and how cute and cuddly they may be, and then spring into action with just as much passion.