Outrage spreads after Copenhagen Zoo kills four lions

In February, a healthy, 18-month-old giraffe named Marius was killed at the Copenhagen Zoo. His autopsy was performed in front of a crowd of zoo-goers, and his remains were tossed into the lions’ den to be devoured. Why? Because the zoo had a “surplus” of giraffes, and Marius didn’t have a place in the zoo’s breeding program.

Now, Copenhagen Zoo is at it again. Two African lions and their two ten-month-old cubs were killed this week to make way for a new male, in hopes that he will breed with the remaining female lions.

National Geographic refers to this form of slaughter as “zoothanasia,” which it defines as “killing done by zoo workers because an animal is no longer needed for one reason or another and is deemed to be a disposable object rather than a sentient being.”

These horrifying events have sparked public outrage. Several petitions are circling the web, and Twitter users are expressing their disgust with #CopenhagenZoo. Many are calling for a boycott of the zoo, while others, like animal rights campaigner Liz Tyson, believe that support needs to be withdrawn from the zoo industry entirely.

In a news release, Peta commented on the incident:

“Copenhagen Zoo, which pleads that there is nowhere to put these animals, didn’t find them abandoned on the doorstep one morning—the zoo brought them into this world. Like domesticated cats, big cats breed unless they’re sterilized, and that is exactly what the zoo had an ethical obligation to do—to sterilize them, rather than bringing cubs into the world simply to kill them.”

Born Free also released a statement:

“The Zoo seems keen to demonstrate publicly their disregard for the lives of their animals and for public opinion, and in doing so demonstrate so much of what is wrong with the keeping and breeding of wild animals in zoos.”

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Director of Noah opts to create CGI animal kingdom

Noah, a movie version of the biblical tale of Noah’s ark, will hit theaters March 28. No animals were harmed in the making of this film… because no live animals were used at all.

In an interview with Peta, director Darren Aronofsky said that using live animals on set would be “against the actual themes of the film.” Instead, he chose to use computer-generated imagery (CGI).

According to the International Business Times, in 2006, during the making of The Fountain, Aronofsky worked with live primates and was disturbed by the conditions in which the animal actors were kept. This time, he wanted to do things differently.

“Many people over the years in films have tried to mix all kinds of animals in the animal kingdom and the results were usually disastrous,” Aronofsky said in the interview. “There’s really no reason to do it any more because the technology has arrived.”

But what about movies that don’t utilize this technology and opt to continue using live animals instead? What laws protect them from mistreatment?

Unfortunately, there are no federal or state laws that directly apply to animals in movies. Indirectly, they’re partially protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and state laws that prohibit animal cruelty and neglect.

Guidelines set out by the American Humane Association are the only regulations specific to animal actors. That’s where the “No Animals Were Harmed” disclaimer at the end of movies comes from.

Watch the interview with Aronofsky and learn more about the future of animals in film and TV here:

Let the wild horses roam

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service yesterday to protect wild horses in California’s Modoc National Forest. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, targets a plan that would eliminate more than 25,000 acres of wild horse territory in “Devil’s Garden” and result in a significant decline of the horse population.

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Here’s what you need to know:

Who filed the suit?

  • ALDF
  • Caldwell Leslie, a Los Angeles-based firm
  • Meyer Glitenstein & Crystal, a D.C. public interest environmental law firm

Who are the plaintiffs? 

  • American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
  • Return to Freedom horse sanctuary
  • An individual California resident

What are the main points of the lawsuit? 

“The Forest Service’s decision violates federal animal protection and environmental laws and unlawfully prioritizes ranchers and privately-owned livestock above federally protected wild horses.”

What are the potential consequences of the Forest Service’s decision?

Up to 80% of the wild horse population could be rounded up by helicopter. Roundups separate horses from their families and often leads to sale for slaughter in Mexico and Canada.

What is Devil’s Garden?

A wild horse territory in California officially designated by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which was passed by Congress in 1971. The Forest Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages the territory. According to ALDF, wild horses have lived in Devil’s Garden for at least 150 years.

Who is ALDF?

In Citrus Park, at Big Cat Rescue, Cameron the lion sleeps tonight

Yesterday I went on an adventure to explore Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit educational sanctuary located in Tampa, FL. The 69-acre sanctuary, which houses over 100 exotic big cats, is sandwiched between Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill and a McDonald’s. Across the street is a Westfield mall and Citrus Park Plaza. But as soon as you make the turn onto Easy Street, a narrow, gravel pathway hidden between the trees, it feels like you’re in the middle of the jungle.

Our tour guide, Ciara, is an intern who lives on property. After we watched a short orientation video, she led us outside to meet the cats. It was astonishing to see how many came to BCR as abandoned pets. Ciara introduced us to Doodles, Zimba, Santino and Zouletta – African servals who had lived in their owner’s basement in New York for 12 years.

Serval

One of the most touching stories was that of Cameron, a lion, and Zabu, a white tigress. The two were raised together at a roadside zoo and now live together in a 3-acre “cat-a-tat” that was designed specifically for them. Cameron was slumbering away entirely undisturbed as we walked by.

Cameron

People often attempt to breed lions and tigers to create “ligers,” but hybridization leads to major health problems in offspring, so Cameron was given a vasectomy to prevent him from breeding with Zabu. White tigers are also a result of hybridization – they don’t exist in the wild. BCR encourages people to refuse to visit attractions that place white tigers on display to prevent this abusive inbreeding from continuing.

At the end of the tour, I was given the chance to sign a petition and make a call to my state senators to support The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, which aims to prohibit the private possession of exotic big cats. This bill has been introduced as HR 1998 in the House and S 1308 in the Senate. You can take action, too, by signing the online petition.

If you’re ever in the Tampa area, I definitely recommend taking a trip to Big Cat Rescue. It was fun and informative, and most importantly, by purchasing a tour ticket, you’re directly helping the cats. Sign up for a tour here.