I must have missed something along the way to learning how to care for animals, but maybe I didn’t.
I remember when I was a little boy asking my parents why my grandparents killed their young roosters (the technical term is “cockerel”) and left the young hens to survive (the technical term is “pullet.”)
Every year, their flock of mixed meat and egg chickens would have a ton of chicks. The foxes and raccoons got a few. And others got fried.
Almost all the fried ones were cockerels, not pullets.
As a juvenile male with an inquiring mind, I asked why such a fate always befell the young males.
My parents explained to me that the reason why the young roosters became dinner is because a farm doesn’t need many roosters. If it has too many roosters, all that will ever get done is crowing, fighting, and hen-chasing. If you want to manage the flock better– have the hens lay nice eggs and get nice and fat– you cull the young roosters.
And I thought that people understood this concept.
Well, as I’ve started writing about animal welfare issues, I’ve noticed that many people don’t get it at all.
Take the great outrage of this past week: The Copenhagen Zoo’s decision to cull a young male giraffe to prevent inbreeding in their herd.
I’ve notice most of the outrage comes from the United Kingdom, a place where there is a sort of animal rights cult that runs deep into the body politic. I don’t know where it comes from, but I, as an American, find it absolutely bizarre.
That’s not say that the US is AR-free. The state of California is full of this sentiment, and I’m sure you could find people whining about hunting somewhere.
But in the US, this is the fringe.
I suppose in Denmark, it is too.
That’s because in the real world of animal husbandry, things are not always nice.
Animals die. Animals fight. Animals get sick. Animals get hurt. Animals need culling.
In dogs, we cull all the time. We just don’t call it that. We call it selling it to a “pet home only.”
In farm animals, the animals culled are the animals that become food. The animals with the best traits are kept back for breeding, and this is how we’ve been able to breed productive meat animals.
Reputative zoos are really farms, but unlike the farms we have to produce meat, these farms are engaged in a different kind of breeding. It’s actually the exact opposite of the kind of breeding that has been so lauded in breeding dogs over the years.
In dog breeding, the main goal has been to breed from top performing or winning stud dogs in order to spread their genes throughout the breed. It’s madness, if you ask me, because it leads to more and more inbred populations and attendant gene loss.
Zoos are trying to do the exact opposite. The goal of a zoo breeding program is to retain as much genetic diversity as possible i their breeding populations.
Now, this makes sense, even for species that aren’t endangered. If the wild population of a given species suddenly becomes rare and genetically compromised, zoos that have maintained healthy, genetically diverse populations will be able to use that genetic diversity that they have set aside to save the species.
Zoos that breed this way are the genetic savings accounts.
A lot of the misunderstanding of the death of Marius comes from a misunderstanding of conservation breeding, and it also comes up against another piece of the puzzle:
The Copenhagen Zoo does not do contraceptives. In Scandinavia, almost all dogs are kept intact, and I believe in either Sweden or Norway, it was actually illegal to spay or neuter a dog as an elective surgery.
In the zoo situation, they keep their animals intact, so they have a full complement of hormones and relatively natural social structures. That means that females and males are going to mate whether the mating makes sense for the purpose of conservation breeding or not.
I don’t have a problem with this attitude. It makes quite a bit of sense for the welfare of the animals involved. They get to live complete and full lives.
However, the question of what to do with the surplus offspring is not a trivial one. Historically, zoos sold their surplus animals to private owners. This is one reason why there are so many tigers in the US, and it was also a major source for the canned hunting industry.
Many argued that the Copenhagen Zoo should have just allowed Marius to go to another zoo, but if that zoo isn’t part of the same breeding network, it would not make sense to allow Marius to become part of it.
The zoo in Yorkshire that offered him a home sounds like a possibility, but it’s not a viable option. Let me explain:
These reputable, accredited zoos all support each other. Smaller zoos can go under– and many often do. If something were to happen to that Yorkshire zoo, there could be a chance that poor Marius could wind up sold to a circus or put in a canned hunting operation.
I don’t think Marius’s biggest supporters want that to happen.
So euthanasia was the best option.
Marius was killed with a rifle shot to the head. That is precisely how we kill cows in West Virginia.
He was then given a public dissection, which resulted in the British animal rights activists sneering at the Danes for doing such a thing. I mean it’s not like the British would ever show a giraffe dissection on television, would they?
Of course, after Marius was dissected, he was fed to the lions. The poor lions probably have never tasted giraffe flesh before, and in the wild, it’s pretty rare for a lion to kill a giraffe. But if they didn’t feed Marius to the lions, they would just have to feed them some domestic meat, which was slaughtered just as humanely as Marius was. In this way, you could almost think of Marius saving the lives of a few cows that would have had to have been killed to feed the lions.
Are you kidding me?
I don’t understand this. I guess I learned something when I was five years old that ton of people never have learned.
Animal husbandry isn’t pretty. Sometimes, things must die for the greater good.
I feel very sorry for Bengst Holst and his staff. He’s trying to do what is right for the animals, and all these bleeding hearts who claim to love the animals are screaming for his head.
It’s kind of like the Animal Rights Tea Party.
The animal rights movement has done nothing for the conservation of our planet and its biodversity. It is simply a movement of fanatics who refuse to listen to reason.
I have no use for them. I don’t think they really help animals in the long term, and if their demands were adhered to, we would see utter collapse of ecosystem after ecosystem and the extinction of countless species.
Animal husbandry requires both empathy and reason. Without reason, empathy can often do as much harm as good. Without empathy, the animals just won’t be cared for properly.
The problem is too many people are obsessed with the empathy side of the equation.
And it’s not helping at all.
Here’s a clip of Bengt Holst trying to speak some reason to an antagonistic British presenter:
I still am having a hard time understanding the British animal rights movement:
You had more protests over a badger cull than you did over austerity.
There is something very pathological about that.
And I say this as someone who might be better called a “hard-core leftist.”
But I don’t get this stuff at all.