Odense Zoo, a Danish zoo, dissected a cub in public, in front of crowds and children, in what is described as an educational activity. A zoo employee held up the cub’s head for the audience to see while other staff cut up the lion’s body and displayed its guts and bloodied organs to the audience. The staff made a running commentary for each of the parts removed and cut.
Zoo employee Lotte Tranberg explained that the cub dissected was initially killed together with its siblings in February to prevent inbreeding, The Guardian reported. The siblings are getting matured and may end up mating with each other, Tranberg said. She also explained that the particular cub was chosen to be dissected in public because it was bigger compared to its other siblings. The carcasses of the two other lions are being kept in a zoo freezer until further decision from zoo officials.
It seemed that the Danes were actually thrilled about the educational activity. One man among the crowd who watched the public dissection is Ole Hanson, a military officer. He watched it with his 5-year-old grandson who chose a spot at the front, right before the lion. Another audience, Gitte Johanson, said the activity was actually wonderful for the kids to see because it is natural.
The Guardian observed that most of the English-speaking commentators on the zoo’s Facebook page were disgusted about the activity while those who posted in Danish defended the public dissection. “Life isn’t the Disney Channel. Get over it,” said one Danes who defended the activity.
One Facebook comment seen by Reuters said the activity had disgusted the world. “Exposing young people to animal dissection as ‘science’ can foster a callousness toward animals later on in life. Many countries are watching what you are doing with disgust … You need to stop,” the comment reads.
However, one young girl who was asked about her experience watching the public dissection said it smelled really bad, “but it was exciting to see what the lion looks inside.” The 11-year-old girl said it was actually cool seeing that the lion has body parts “similar to human.”
Joanna Swabe, executive director of Humane Society International/Europe, said the public dissection was both unethical and irresponsible. Especially if the zoo had allowed its animals to reproduce in full knowledge that they are genetically superfluous to a conservation program.
“The Odense Zoo’s public dissection of a one-year-old lion cub has sparked global outrage. Zoos have an ethical responsibility to make prudent decisions about how they manage population control which doesn’t rely on animals being routinely killed as disposable assets,” Swabe said in a statement.
“This particular young female lion at Odense Zoo was in many ways condemned to die the moment she was born, a birth that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place,” Swabe added. She also stressed that many European zoos are guilty of over-breeding and then killing the animals deemed as surplus to requirement.
The Guardian noted that public dissections of animals are normal in Denmark. On Wednesday, another zoo dissected a pig while explaining to children which parts are eaten and which parts are not to be eaten. Odense Zoo has actually been awarded the best zoo in Europe, having 500,000 visitors per year.