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Hey parents, if you were in Copenhagen, the zoo had a wonderful idea for an outing with the kids a week ago.

The invitation was out, and people of all ages showed up, from toddlers to elders.

It was touted by zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro as “an important display of scientific knowledge about animals.”

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Stenbaek said, “I’m actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn’t have had from watching a giraffe in a photo.”

“Proud” or not, that’s probably the understatement of the century.

What was this wonderful lesson for children and others?

Well, they took a beautiful, healthy male giraffe – named Marius – shot him in the head with a bolt pistol as he leaned down to munch on his favorite rye bread snack.

Then they laid him out, skinned him, cut him apart and fed him in pieces to the zoo lions.

All this was carried out in front of an audience of little children and adults.

I wasn’t there, but in my Internet search, I saw the color photographs of what the zoo called a “display of scientific knowledge.”

I saw Marius alive; then lying dead after being shot in the head with blood oozing from his skull and his still warm body; then saw zoo officials skinning him, cutting him apart and dragging the pieces of his body to the lions to be devoured. It was grisly.

All this, while little children stood just feet away, watching with somber faces.

I wonder what they were thinking. I wonder what their parents told them about what took place. I wonder if parents told them that poor, beautiful, gentle Marius didn’t “die” – he was “intentionally killed” because the “caring” zookeepers decided they didn’t need him anymore.

In other words, I wonder if the message to those children was that if, for any reason, a living creature was deemed to be unneeded, it was OK to kill it, even kill it before an audience, which was also allowed to see the carcass fed to other animals.

Is that really a message we want them to have?

Before you get all up in arms against me for siding with the animal, here’s the “reason” the giraffe was killed.

The Copenhagen Zoo said it killed Marius because the European Assn of Zoos and Aquaria, or EAZA, said the zoo had too many giraffes with similar genes in their breeding program. Seven giraffes are left. They want to keep the genetic lines pure and prevent inbreeding.

According to Stenbaek Bro, most “responsible” zoos are members of the Amsterdam-based organization.

My suggestion to the zoo? Keep Marius in a separate enclosure away from females.

That would have done it, but then the zoo would have missed all the publicity and the opportunity to pat themselves on the back for how scientifically humane they are.

Lest you think everyone agreed with the killing plan, the zoo was inundated with outrage from people across Europe and, indeed, the world. Thousands signed petitions to keep Marius alive. There were demands that zoo directors be fired and even telephone and e-mail death threats.

Other individuals offered to buy Marius, and a variety of animal parks and zoos offered him a new home. He was in perfect health; Copenhagen just didn’t like his genes.

Given the way Marius was killed, how the public was shown every grisly detail of his death and final end, I find it laughable that EAZA members believe that zoos don’t own animals; they only govern them and, as a result, can’t sell them to anyone not a member.

Oh.

The zoo scientific director, Bengt Holst, told the AP they don’t give giraffes birth control or castrate them “because that could have unwanted side effects on their internal organs, and the zoo regards parental care as important.”

Sorry, Bengt, I saw what Marius looked like after he was shot, skinned and in pieces. He suffered terrible side effects on his internal organs; and you’re worried about the effects of castration?!?!

As for “parental care,” I doubt a mom giraffe would do that to her baby.

Vegetarian giraffes are considered among the largest, strongest and most peaceful animals on earth, but they will use their powerful kick to defend themselves and family against attacking lions or hyenas.

A few days later, another Danish zoo said it would kill one of its two male giraffes because they were about to get a female and wanted to prevent fights.

The announcement garnered a flood of objections and threats, and finally the zoo said it would not kill the animal, coincidentally, also named Marius.

From the attitude of these people, it’s clear that zoos regularly “thin their herds” by killing.

Animal Rights Sweden was quoted in the Columbus Dispatch saying, “It is no secret that animals are killed when there is no longer space or if the animals don’t have genes that are interesting enough. The only way to stop this is not to visit zoos.”

The BBC quoted Peter Sandoe, professor of bioethics at the University of Copenhagen, saying, “[S]mall children, seeing this giraffe … being turned into lion food … it’s a very good picture of what nature is like.”

He went on to say that in the wild, giraffe will die young, be killed by lions, diseases, accidents and starvation.

As far as using contraceptives as an alternative to killing: “You’re already taking away a lot of the natural behavior by putting them behind a fence.”

He continued, “If you take away their ability to procreate, you are taking away even more of their natural life.”

Oh, I see. So either they can have sex or we kill them.

Remember, this man’s professional specialty is bioethics.

God help the animals – and us, too.

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