LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Zoos should exhibit compassion, conservation

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The Copenhagen Zoo killed, dissected and fed a giraffe, Marius, to their big cats while children watched (“Copenhagen zoo facing fire for feeding healthy giraffe to lions,” Web, Feb. 10).

The zoo asserted that this giraffe, though healthy, possessed genes too common to be used in their breeding program. The killing was done despite both the posting of online petitions opposing it and the offers of other facilities to take Marius.

The zoo argued that such “culling” occurs in the wild and that it has done this many times with goats, antelope and boar. The zoo further argued that seeing a giraffe killed this way was educational for youngsters.

I understand that we are routinely confronted with the conflicts of choosing between saving the predator and saving the prey. Do you let a snake starve because you won’t kill a mouse?

Such contradictions exist everywhere in our lives: Criminals can behave kindly, pit-bull fighters can cherish the family pet dog, and people can kill to protect others.

Not every decision is a “Sophie’s choice,” but each decision must be recognized as the product of a complex world with competing priorities. The mouse and the snake both want to live, and they will fight to do so.

Zoos have educational mandates and responsibilities to treat their animals and visitors humanely. Zoos should not exist to replicate the wars fought in the wild, but rather, if they must exist, to demonstrate compassion, conserve endangered species and teach respect for those beings with which we humans share this planet.

I don’t think wild animals should be held captive for our entertainment. I surely don’t think they should be massacred for it, either.

MADELINE BERNSTEIN

President

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Los Angeles

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