On Sunday, Copenhagen Zoo decided to “humanely euthanize” an 18-month-old giraffe named Marius. By all accounts the animal was pretty healthy, but the zoo said it had to kill Marius because there was a risk of inbreeding if he reproduced. So, after turning down several offers to rehome Marius, Copenhagen Zoo figured it was best to shoot him in the head, chop him up in front of a load of kids, and feed what was left of him to the lions.
(Before he was introduced to the bolt gun, Marius was fed his favorite meal of rye bread.)
Naturally, people on the internet weren't too happy about all of this. An international petition garnered 27,000 signatures, the bosses of the zoo received death threats, and even Ricky Gervais took time out to be sad about it on social media. But how do regular Danish folk feel?
VICE: How do you feel about the killing of Marius the giraffe?
Sarah, 27, student: Actually, I’m kind of torn. They named it, so that really speaks to my emotions, but on the other hand I eat meat every day.
What do you think they should have done with him instead of killing him?
I don’t know. I heard about this Swede who was willing to buy it because he had a house for it or something. I thought that they should have given it to him. I'm not sure if the people who work there are even sad about it—they'd been calling him by his name, and then they just killed him? Like, “'Bye, Marius.”
How do you feel about their letting the public watch his execution and subsequent feeding to the lions?
It doesn’t make me angry, but I wouldn’t go to see it myself.
VICE: What’s your take on Marius's murder?
Daniel, 32, unemployed: I think it’s been very over-exaggerated in the media. I saw one of the people from the zoo speaking about it yesterday on the news, and I think he gave some very good explanations. I think the people who are making such a big deal are maybe not very familiar with animals and how the zoo needs to take care of them. So that might be why they give such a reaction.
Do you think part of the anger stems from Marius' being a giraffe and not a goat or something?
I definitely do. There was a similar scandal last year in the EU, regarding horse meat. There were two sides to that debate as well—one was that people were not being informed of what they were eating, and the other was the question of whether or not it was immoral to eat horse meat. We eat pigs and cows every day, but people were appalled by the idea of eating horse. It’s kind of silly, really.
VICE: What do you think about Copenhagen Zoo's making the killing of Marius such a public spectacle?
Ida, 15, student/vegetarian: It sounds very violent. Did that really happen? It sounds like something somebody would make up.
It really happened. Kids could watch if their parents let them.
Do you eat meat?
No. I’m a vegetarian.
Do you think people would have reacted differently if Marius had been a goat or a sheep?
Well, yeah. But the lions have to eat as well, and they're probably supposed to eat things like giraffes more than pigs and goats, right?
VICE: What is your opinion on what happened to poor Marius?
Mette, 55, accountant: Well, I think that it was extremely hard to see, because he was a healthy young animal and it’s not fair to kill him. On the other hand, it was said that they could not export him to another zoo for fear of inbreeding, which is also fair, so I’m very torn on the case.
The CEO of the Danish zoo has explained that this kind of killing has been going on for years in zoos in order to maintain a healthy balance of species, but now that it’s made public I think it’s unnecessary for it to be shown on TV and to kids and all of this. It’s fine that they fed him to the lions so that they didn’t waste the meat, but all this big show is too much.