To prevent inbreeding that could harm its Giraffe population, the Copenhagen Zoo killed an 18 month-old Giraffe this weekend. The meat was fed to lions. For educational purposes, the Zoo allowed the public to view the slaughtering and quartering of the animal.
The mob outrage ensued.
Author Joyce Carol Oates compared the Giraffe killing to Nazi doctors performing medical experiments. One email to the Zoo declared “[t]he children of the staff of Copenhagen Zoo should all be killed or should get cancer,” and an online petition calling for the firing of Bengt Holst, the Director of Research and Conservation at the Zoo, has already received over 120,000 signatures.
The killing of exotic animals sparked similar mob outrage when hunter Melissa Bachman posed with a dead lion she lawfully killed on a preserve, and Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 to hunt a black rhino, the proceeds of which went toward conservation.
The visceral, selective outrage over the Giraffe killing is a product of a double standard that romanticizes exotic animals, placing a greater value on their lives than, say, farm animals.
How is killing a baby giraffe any different than the killing of a baby cow or chicken?
Many of those outraged are perfectly content with the killing of billions of healthy chickens and cows each year. They happily eat chicken nuggets and veal cutlets, ignoring the abhorrent conditions many of these animals suffer. Conditions far worse than those of the Copenhagen Giraffe, prior to his untimely demise. But how dare you kill a zoo animal!
The Copenhagen Zoo could have transferred the Giraffe to the various zoos that offered to take it, but they chose not to claiming the other zoos were not a member of The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and therefore not subject to the same standards of animal husbandry and welfare.
Regardless of whether or not they should have relocated the Giraffe, the Zoo killed the animal humanely, without waste, and for a reason that protects its population.
Animals are killed all the time, for lack of habitat, genetic reasons, population control, or for consumption by animals or people. There is nothing wrong with that. Even the Humane Society of the U.S. euthanized approximately 3.4 million pets in 2013, and PETA describes it as a “tragic necessity.”