Extended Optimism

Well, they’ve done it now.  A beautiful creature, one of the ‘Big Five’ no less, has been slaughtered in Copenhagen in the name of “Science”.  Now, before any readers jump to the wrong conclusion regarding my motivations for writing this piece, I should explain something:

I am not a hippy, vegetarian, animal rights protester or particularly squeamish.  Nonetheless, my initial response to the headlines was probably one of displeasure, even disappointment at the revelation that a creature was to be destroyed because of the accident of its birth.  Then I decided, on a whim, to try to see both sides of this story.

On the one hand, we have the Animal Rights lot.  Well meaning – well most of them – and with a loud voice too.  Their point – we don’t have the right to kill such a magnificent creature, and it is wrong to do so. There were also comments relating to the cruelty of zoos in general, and tying Copenhagen in with the infamous “Zoo of Death” in Indonesia.

On the other hand, we have the scientists, who were arguing quite cogently, if more quietly, that the zoo needed to clear space for the ongoing breeding programme, and that as a result their only option was to destroy the animal.

“Oh Yes,” cry Swampy et al, “why does he have to be killed?  Why can’t he go to another zoo, where he can be cared for?” – a question I immediately felt was both intelligent and obvious.  My ego shining through a bit there, eh?  Well, that has been answered too.  Apparently, the Giraffe in question is a very poor specimen, and in order to maintain a high quality of stock he should be destroyed in order to make room for other, better quality examples.  Therefore IF another zoo or wildlife park has the space available for this particular animal, then they should get another, BETTER giraffe in his place. To pull on emotional strings from another direction, it’s like choosing to breed a whole new generation of human beings using ONLY people who have appeared on The Only Way is Essex.

The argument boils down thus: On one side, the rights of every animal to life a decent life, and on the other, the need to best safeguard the species, including unborn generations, so that it can continue.

OK, so that’s the basics out of the way.  It sounds like I have made my mind up, and as a result, everyone can hang their own and either join in with me, or go to hell.

Not the case.

In fact, I think this particular one is so divisive, I couldn’t say for certain where anyone else would come down, including my floweriest of mates.  In fact, it’s so subjective, I am likely to be swayed by any reasonable argument right now.  One thing I think we can all agree on though, is that it would have been a lot better for everyone if this creature had never been conceived at all.  Except a few lions and other carnivores in Copenhagen zoo, that is.

Right – on to my point.

The big stumbling block here is that every side has made the mistake of thinking that the world agrees with them on some fundamental points.  The animal welfare lot think that the zoo and everyone they oppose is a mindless murdering bastard, bloodthirsty and wanting to kill for the sake of it, and that EVERYONE else is in love with the individual animal which was destroyed.

They use their own emotional response to judge whether something is right or not, and the reasoning of the zoo ‘professionals’ does not enter in to the equation.

On the other hand, the directors at the zoo rely on safe, scientific choices – they use blind reason in the same way as our tie-dye chums use their visceral responses, but without recourse to public ‘opinion’. (Please bear in mind that while I agree every individual has the right to hold an opinion, the rest of humanity has just as much right to ignore it.  When I want to build a power station, I will consult an engineer, not an arsonist with ‘a good idea’.)

Do I think one side is right and the other wrong?  No.  I think both sides could do with trying to empathise with the other.  The zoo should be considering the emotional response to this catastrophe, and the protesters should actually consider what the zoo is saying, without resorting to attacks on emotional levels.  The protesters were the ones publicizing this, and then they are the ones to complain that the zoos actions will cause offence to millions of people worldwide.  If it is the feelings of other people they wanted to protect, why publicise it in the first place?

The events, unfolding as they did in the public eye, were the outward symptoms of a tragedy which – once the animal was born – could not be avoided.  Either it would have to be destroyed to make way for other animals, or another, possibly better specimen, would never be born. One animal, or the species.  I’m not arguing that this was as simple as that, nor that this creature was the be-all-and-end-all, but where one comes down on that line is a personal choice, and how one deals with those on the other side of it is just as crucial as the arguments you use.

Perhaps science should consider the emotional needs of the world, or perhaps their opponents should at least listen to reason… There needs to be a middle ground.  I’m off to find it.  Bring a tent.


2 thoughts on “Extended Optimism

  1. I am also not a “hippy, vegetarian, animal rights protester or particularly squeamish” and was upset with the euthanizing of the giraffe. If the animal was not suitable for breeding, why couldn’t it be sterilized and allowed to live out its life? We put it in captivity so we are obligated to take care of it to the best of our abilities and not just exterminate it because it is inconvenient.


    • I agree 100%. The poor creature should never have been born. And I was intending this post to be more about the natural bias of the interested parties, but the point still stands – someone has to find the resources to keep the creature, and by doing so these resources are not available to another, genetically more desirable specimen.

      I don’t have a solution, but do think that the whole thing could have been handled far better with a bit more empathy on both sides.

      Thanks for your comment,



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