Would you throw your pet to the lions?
At some point, we all learned the hard truth that nature is brutal; animals hunt, kill, and eat other animals. It’s not a pretty sight, so it can be traumatizing for anyone to witness. Though we love seeing the great beasts of the wild up close at zoos, we don’t really want to see them do what’s natural: tear apart a live animal.
A few zoos in Switzerland not only feeds their predators whole animals, the prey is coming from the people visiting the zoos.
Bring us your pets
The Zurich Zoo, located in Switzerland, has asked patrons to start bringing them their unwanted guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, and cats so that they can be fed whole to the large cats. The zoo’s director Alex Ruebel defends this practice, that has been met with both support and disgust. He explained, “The guinea pigs or rabbits are killed by a veterinarian, then fed to the tigers, lions and snow leopards. The reason for this is that we want to show what is natural. And carnivores eat meat together with the entrails.” (They do not accept dogs, however.)
Mr. Ruebel is such a huge fan of this project. He says some people are smuggling their pets into the zoo to release them, hoping they’ll eventually be eaten by something. Some pet owners have started calling other zoos, inquiring about turning their pets into lion food.
Marc Rosset of The Daehlhoelzli Animal Park in the Swiss said, “We speak of one to five animals per week, which become food.” Not every Swiss zoo is okay with the practice though. Valentin Kressler of the Basel Zoo stated, “We do not accept such animals, as we do not know their health status.”
Condemning Them to Death
Animal rights activists aren’t just condemning zoos for the practice, they’re aghast at how many people are happy to send their pets to their death. Global Animal Law founder Antoine Goetschel said about the “predominant throwaway mentality” of people, “If [zoos] would openly offer the acceptance of pets, they [should] become a shelter for unwanted pets.” Helen Sandmeier of the Swiss Animal Protection admonished these owners, saying, “It is not possible that one accepts the death of their pet.”
Attitudes about how animals, wild and domesticated, are treated have been changing over time. Where animals were once considered food and laborers, most people like to think of them as beings that we should live in harmony with, keeping them safe from any harm. However, not everyone is on that page.
The Copenhagen Zoo was reviled by animal activists in 2014 when they chose to kill a perfectly healthy two-year-old giraffe and feed it to lions. Petitions were signed and other zoos begged to take him, yet the Copenhagen Zoo staff went through with their plan.
The zoo’s scientific director Bengt Holst said, “Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes. It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space. … When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then. If we just sterilize him, he will take up space for more genetically valuable giraffes.”
Zoos around Asia have been practicing live feedings of domesticated animals for a while, even allowing zoo guests to pay for a cat or dog that would then be thrown into the cages.
A video of a live cat being thrown into a crocodile pond and devoured sparked massive outrage in 2015.
A zoo in Iraq finally ended their practice of feeding a live donkey to lions on Thursdays after people said they didn’t want to see that.
Do you think that feeding zoo animals other zoo or domesticated animals is what nature intended? Or is this practice just grotesque? Let us know in the comments and SHARE this story.