Here's the story of a baby giraffe fed to lions at the Copenhagen Zoo

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston.
The proper treatment of animals is a topic that can generate some very heated arguments among us humans. You don't have to tell that to the people of Denmark after what went down at the Copenhagen Zoo over the weekend. You've probably seen the stories; a healthy giraffe there was killed by officials, and its remains were then literally fed to the lions. The zoo even invited visitors, including children, to watch the animal's autopsy and later, the feeding.
Now, this isn't some bizarre sidebar. It's been the top story in Denmark for the past several days. Kim Bildsoe Lassen is a news anchor on Denmark's DR1 TV channel. He explains why zoo officials decided to kill Marius the giraffe.

Kim Bildsoe Lassen: Well, it was killed because it was basically a part of a program where you breed giraffes, and there was no room for it, simply. I mean, there are too many giraffes, and it couldn't be transferred to another zoo because of the genetics within this specific group of giraffes. So they've said that this was the best way to deal with this problem, and they've also underlined that they would do it again if it came to the same situation.

Werman: So how long has this saga been debated by people in Copenhagen? 'cause I've heard, like right up the last minute, people were protesting outside the zoo as if they were asking the governor for a stay of execution.

Lassen: [Laughs] There were only a few people. I think there were 15 people standing outside the zoo when it opened. But there has been a debate; it's been on social media and so forth.

Werman: I mean, trying to keep the breed of giraffes from inbreeding is understandable, but I think a lot of people are bothered by, "Why carve up this beast once it's been shot, in front of bystanders, and then feed the body parts to the lions?" What have they said about that, at the zoo?

Lassen: They've said this was an educational thing, that you might as well, you know, show people how this is done. How a giraffe is--you know, what it looks like inside, and also that the most natural thing was to not destroy the meat, but to give it to lions or other predators who would eat this in the wild.

Werman: I mean, visitors to the zoo in that video, they do seem curious and are there to learn. Where have you been hearing the biggest criticism?

Lassen: From abroad.

Werman: From abroad?

Lassen: Yes. And also there has been on social media. I think quite a few people at one point thought it was just a gimmick, which it certainly isn't, as far as I would assume. And then there has been sort of smaller groups of animal lovers, I don't know if that's the right term to use here. But people who are protesting this because it's a giraffe, and it seems inhumane. Whereas the zoo, and its director there, have said, "This is part of the program that we run, and it is not different because it's a giraffe that has big brown eyes, or whether it's a small animal. We have to deal with it the same way."

Werman: And people in Denmark, you think, are more in sync with the zoo officials, and this is just part of the way things go in life?

Lassen: [Laughs] We haven't made a public survey about it, but I think... You know, there was a big uproar in the beginning, and then I think when the zoo explained what was actually the purpose of it, and why it was done, I think most people understand that this was, as you say, part of life.

Werman: Kim Bildsoe Lassen, with Denmark's national TV news. Thank you very much.

Lassen: You are most welcome.