Is Denmark Really Concerned About Animal Welfare?

Denmark claims to hold animal rights in high regard. On February 20, 2014, it joined the anti-religious slaughter bandwagon when it outlawed both Kosher and Halal slaughter, since neither stuns the animal before killing. Asked about religious rights, the Danish agriculture minister said, “animal rights come before religious rights. I am in favor of religious slaughter, but it must be done in a way that does not bring pain to the animal. This can be accomplished only by stunning.” Properly done scientific studies dispute that. They show that, done properly, an animal does not suffer from either stunning or ritual slaughter. But let’s move on.

It may appear, then, that Denmark thinks it is doing something to prevent pain to its animals. Let’s explore this further.

 

How does Denmark really deal with its animals?  If the Danes are truly interested in animals not suffering unnecessary pain, then hunting should be outlawed. Or, if permitted, all hunters should be required to anesthetize animals before shooting them. However, hunting is legal in Denmark and, surprise, hunters do not tranquillize animals before shooting them. Thus many Danes cause animals to endure long and painful deaths when they injure, but don’t kill, the animal.

Denmark belongs to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), an Association priding itself on providing the highest standards of care and breeding for animals. On February 9, 2014, (less than two weeks before the anti- religious slaughter ban was passed), a healthy two year old giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo was killed after being shot in the neck with a bolt gun. In the presence of school age kids and their parents, Marius was dissected, skinned and cut up, and some of his flesh thrown to the lions for a presumably tasty meal.

Copenhagen Zoo Giraffes

Carpe Diem

Marius, the young giraffe, was “euthanized” with the full approval of the EAZA to control breeding, as the zoo already had enough giraffes with his genes. Lest you think that the zoo may have had no alternative, about 25,000 people signed a petition asking that Marius be spared. Furthermore, several zoos offered to take him and one man even offered to buy him for a large sum of money.

But, the zoo said that they could not legally sell him and, as for the other zoos, since most were not members of EAZA and, presumably, did not have the same standards, they could not send Marius to them. 

As for the zoo in England that was a member of EAZA, the Copenhagen zoo’s scientific director said that the English zoo’s space could be better used by a “genetically more valuable giraffe.”

Why wasn’t Marius sterilized? Because, according to zoo officials, it would be negatively affect his quality of life and he would be taking up valuable space better occupied by “more genetically valuable giraffes.”

Of course, this begs the question as to why Zoo authorities and EAZA, who claim to be so concerned with breeding practices, allowed Marius’ parents to mate if they knew they did not want the giraffes’ offspring’s genes.

Oh and as to the public view of the dissection, zoo authorities defended it by saying that the dissection gave children a deeper understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe than they would have gotten from looking at a giraffe in a photo. Furthermore, they said, public dissections of deceased animals are consistent with the zoo’s policy of educating people on nature and wildlife, life and death, and are routinely done.  (To see a most disturbing video of the incident click below. This is rather graphic, so please beware.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSsozEO3wC4

Danish authorities were stunned by the large amount of negative publicity they received after the Marius story was publicized. The defense they mounted, which seems to yielding positive results in Denmark, is explaining that what they did was, in the long run, in the best interests of the giraffe population in zoos.  However, that still does not explain why they allowed this giraffe to born in the first place.

Meanwhile, in a different Danish zoo, another giraffe, also named Marius, (is that Danish for doomed giraffe) was slated for execution for the same reason. His life was spared, for now, by the negative publicity over the dead Marius. Zoo authorities simply decided not to place a female giraffe into his pen.

So, is Denmark really interested in preventing pain to its animals? You decide.

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