One might think that it is simple common sense that kids like to visit a zoo to see the live animals, not the dead ones. But somehow that’s lost in Denmark, where killing and culling the animals is starting to look like some zookeeper’s notion of a national pastime.
This time, the Odense Zoo, about 100 miles west of Copenhagen, dissected a female lion as part of an education program at the zoo. The lion had been killed with two other males last February to avoid inbreeding as the big cats reached sexual maturity. It was kept in deep freeze for just the right moment. The dissection, captured by horrified zoo goers on social media, coincided with a school holiday, which meant the zoo grounds were full of children. A number of zoo visitors tweeted pungent photos and comments about the public dissection.
A female zookeeper, Lotte Tranberg, carried out the dismemberment and dissection after explaining to the shocked crowd why the lions had to be killed. She then held up the lion’s head as the crowd looked on with something between morbid curiosity and unmitigated horror.
Several young children can be seen holding their noses, and several adults had scarves wrapped around their faces to protect them from the stench of the animal’s internal organs, which still smelled of blood and feces. Photos capture children turning away as Tranberg pulls out a long, thick string of blood-red intestine to show the crowd, as she explained, the lion’s digestive system.
This is not the first time the Danes have shocked the world with their animal triage. Last year, the Copenhagen Zoo killed a healthy giraffe named Marius and fed it to the lions despite more than 200,000 signatures in an online petition, and offers of more than half a million euros to save the animal.
“Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes,” Bengt Holst, scientific director at Copenhagen Zoo, told CNN. “It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space. ... When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then.”
And then, added to bad taste and bad judgment, there’s the truly kinky side of things. In April, the Danish parliament finally passed a measure that makes bestiality illegal. Previously zoophilia, or having sexual intercourse with animals, was just fine as long as the animal doesn’t suffer, raising the question: How would you know?
The Danish bestiality bill passed after lawmakers expressed concern that Denmark, as one of the last nations in Europe where sex with animals was still legal, was attracting a host of animal sex tourists who came to the country just to fornicate with the furry set.
The killing (and cuddling) of zoo animals has been met with outrage across Europe. Joanna Swabe, head of Humane Society International of Europe, suggested that Danish zoos introduce contraception rather than culling to keep their animal population manageable. “Zoos routinely over-breed and kill lions and thousands of other animals deemed surplus to requirements,” she said in a statement. “But zoos have an ethical responsibility to manage reproduction, prevent inbreeding (and) maintain genetically healthy populations.”
A few days before the dissection took place, zookeeper Michael Wallberg Soerensen said the Odense Zoo has been performing public dissections for 20 years. “We are not chopping up animals for fun. We believe in sharing knowledge,” he told the Associated Press, adding that years ago, European cities all hosted public dissections of humans and animals for the purpose of medical advancement. “It is important not to give animals human attributes that they do not have.”