Are we honoring ALL life forms?

In the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, several school children and families gathered around to watch the body of a perfectly healthy baby giraffe named Marius be skinned and chopped up before being fed to the lions.  According to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, Marius was genetically too similar to the other giraffes in its breeding program. Because captive animals are bred from a limited gene pool, zoos are monitored to prevent inbreeding and ensure the health of future generations.


Despite protests, online petitions, rescue offers, and tenders of up to $680,000 from outside sources hoping to spare Marius’s young life, this peaceful 18-month-old giraffe was deemed “surplus” by the zoo administrators and sentenced to death with a bolt gun.   Lethal injection would have contaminated the flesh, making its carcass unusable and inedible.

A spokesman from the Copenhagen Zoo said parents were given the option to decide whether their children should watch what they have labeled “an important display of scientific knowledge about animals.”  Many parents thought the butchering of this baby giraffe was an experience that their children would benefit from watching.  And just as families are known to gather alongside the street to watch a parade, these parents gathered together and encircled the horrific event with their kids at their sides, some grimacing, some taking photos.

“I’m actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn’t have had from watching a giraffe in a photo,” Tobias Stenbaek Bro told The Associated Press.

Bengt Holst, the zoo’s scientific director, compared the situation to the way parks cull deer to keep the whole population healthy.  He said, “Giraffes today breed very well, and when they do, you have to choose and make sure the ones you keep are the ones with the best genes. The most important factor must be that the animals are healthy physically and behaviorally and that they have a good life while they are living, whether this life is long or short.”

According to Danish media, Copenhagen Zoo destroys 20-30 animals a year, including bears, tigers and zebras.  Elisa Allen, spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the U.K., said Marius’ case should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who “still harbors the illusion that zoos serve any purpose beyond incarcerating intelligent animals for profit.”

Undoubtedly, this story is stirring up strong feelings and igniting conversations around the world over whether the zoo’s actions were cruel, unnecessary, and inhumane, and also whether the young children who witnessed the slaughtering of Marius experienced it as an “educational opportunity” or something much more alarming and life-changing.

Within the messages of Conversations With God, we were told that “you shall know that you have taken the path to God, and you shall know that you have found God, for there will be these signs, these indications, these changes in you” – The 10 Commitments.  Number 5 in those Commitments is the following:

“You know you have found God when you observe that you will not murder (that is, willfully kill, without cause).  For while you will understand that you cannot end another’s life in any event (all life is eternal), you will not choose to terminate any particular incarnation, nor change any life energy from one form to another, without the most sacred justification.  Your new reverence for life will cause you to honor all life forms – including plants, trees and animals – and to impact them only when it is for the highest good.”

When we intentionally kill a baby giraffe – or any life form, for that matter – because it no longer enhances the gene pool, does that serve the highest good?  When we teach our children that some forms of life are more important or less important than other life forms, does that serve the highest good?  When we demonstrate to our children that “less valuable” or “surplus” life forms are easily and uncaringly disposed of, does that serve the highest good?  What is the highest good in this situation?   Are we able to stretch our spiritual understandings far enough and wide enough to see what that highest good or sacred justification may actually be?

Your thoughts?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation and lives in Orlando, Florida.  To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at

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