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Why the world needs to stop crying about Marius the giraffe

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The gigantic public outcry that has subsumed the world following the euthanasia of young Marius the giraffe at Copenhagen zoo is occurring for one primary reason: giraffes are cute.

That is, quite literally, it. Can you imagine a similar outburst of fury and death threats if, for example, poor Louis the mole rat took a bullet to the head?

No, neither can I. And that’s because the general public base their hot headed petitioning for saving animal lives on cuteness – that same kind of thoughtless ‘N’awww’ that leads you to compulsively watch YouTube videos of kittens eating watermelon late into a Sunday night. (Yes, guilty.)

The logic that things are only worth saving if they’re cute is pretty vile when you really think about it. A failure to care about important but perhaps pretty freaky looking animals, like krill, or fungi, or this beloved mole rat, displays a hideous narrow mindedness on our part. Why should one life be ranked higher than another, because it comes in nice spotty fur and a funny, black tongue?

Zoos are not conservation centres. Some of them are partially involved in conservation, but they are, first and foremost, artificial environments designed for the titillation of human beings. They have the potential to educate, but its naïve to suggest that all zoos fulfill this role to a substantial standard.

Because they are entirely artificial, both environmentally and genetically, zoos have problems with inbreeding. Euthanasia can be beneficial to a zoo as an institution and can allow for other animals in its keep to receive better care and attention. Copenhagen Zoo staff were no doubt fond of Marius. But people, don’t hate the player, hate the game. This is the kind of shit that goes down in zoos, a lot. In this case it’s just all ended up a messier PR job than usual.

Longleat Safari park euthanased a bunch of lions recently, but they were sneaky and quiet about it. Those of you who have seen the phenomenal documentary Blackfish will have seen the dirty work that goes on in the watery version of a zoo.

At least Copenhagen Zoo made their slaughter of an animal a real educational experience for all. Here’s a comment from ‘CathyRozel’ on the Guardian:

"I think that the zoo should be aware that even if people including children watched the dissection with interest this does not mean that they will not be affected in the long term. I am sure my children would have been very interested but very disturbed later."

I tell you what would probably disturb the kids more - if you took them on a day trip to the place where their chicken nuggets and burgers come from. I can guarantee you that a slaughterhouse is a lot more disturbing than seeing Marius in little bits. Anyone whining on about the problematic ethics of this giraffe’s slaughter, who also happens to enjoy a trip down the Tesco sausage aisle, is a gigantic hypocrite jumping on the ‘CUTE’ bandwagon. What happened in this zoo is a considered veterinary decision, typical of, a zoo. As John Berger said, "the zoo cannot but disappoint." And this act is a damn site more ethical than the following footage, which took place in UK slaughterhouses between the years of 2009 and 2011.

       

We’re so detached from the process of other animals’ deaths (even though it's our consumerism which makes them necessary) that we can just turn a blind eye, whilst wailing in indignation when a giraffe gets fed to some lions - which is, perversely, one of the most ‘natural’ things a zoo could do given that it actually reflects wild hunting habits.

I love animals. I don’t like zoos; they make me feel immensely uncomfortable. I question the benefits of their conservationist and educational efforts when weighed up against the harm they can do (which would be a whole other article). Yet I can respect arguments for why they are an increasing necessity in this crowding, urbanizing planet of ours. I am also neither disgusted nor surprised by Marius’ slaughter, given the context in which it has occurred.

What disgusts me is the poorly considered rush of the general public to protest against the controlled slaughter, in an artificial environment, of one cute animal, because it’s cute and it’s called Marius.

In the meantime, I’m off to start a campaign against the brutal murder of Norman the Blobfish, whose species is in danger of extinction and is actually really special because Norman can propel himself through the deep oceans seemingly without using a muscle – very energy-saving! We could learn a lot from Norman here. He was killed, by the way, from over-fishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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