Legally Brief: No Zoo Animal is “Surplus”

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on February 13, 2014

Legally Brief

This week, animal advocates around the world were horrified to learn of a Danish zoo that slaughtered a giraffe and then fed him to lions in front of children. The perfectly healthy, two-year-old giraffe, named Marius, was killed Sunday according to a Copenhagen Zoo spokesperson because he was considered surplus and his genes were already well-represented in worldwide captive giraffe populations—despite a petition begging for his life signed by tens of thousands of people, an offer from a private citizen of nearly $700,000 to spare his life, and offers from the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (which houses Marius’ brother) and a zoo in northern Sweden to take him.


Photograph of Marius’ body after being killed.

The Copenhagen zoo also considered the killing of Marius to be an educational opportunity. Stunned spectators, including children, were invited to witness Marius’ death and the feeding of his body to lions. A zoo spokesperson is reportedly “proud” of the event for the anatomy lesson it gave children, according to the Associated Press.

But what it teaches children should give us all pause. By slaughtering Marius, the Copenhagen Zoo demonstrated apathy for Marius’ life and his individuality. It illustrates the common viewpoint of zoos (and most wildlife “management” agencies) that individual wild animals, whether captive or free-roaming, are not deserving of consideration as individuals—only “populations” matter. And it highlights how this view translates into a lack of concern for the well-being of animals in zoos or other captive environments.

No wonder then that life in most zoos consists of being displayed in unnatural and often immeasurably depressing, crowded concrete enclosures, separated from family members and thwarted from most natural behaviors. Marius’ life held so little value to his captors that his public execution was just another spectacle. That’s really what children learn from zoos, that wild animals’ lives don’t really matter. The killing of Marius is as awful a lesson for children, and an indictment of the culture within zoos.

Recently, ALDF called on the USDA to enforce the law and prosecute captive animal cruelty violations in North Carolina roadside zoos, where giraffes, baboons, llamas, camels, sheep, deer, and goats, have been found in horrendous conditions. The culture within zoos has made it commonplace even for “reputable” zoos to dump “surplus” animals at terrible roadside zoos like the one ALDF helped rescue Ben the bear from in North Carolina. Perhaps Marius’ fate was better than that of many animals sold or dumped by zoos right here in the US on such roadside hellholes.

56 thoughts on “Legally Brief: No Zoo Animal is “Surplus”

  1. Melissa Keon says:

    Pope John Paul II proclaimed that “the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.” He went on to say that all animals are “fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect” and that they are “as near to God as men are.”

    The Holy Father reminded people that all living beings, including animals, came into being because of the “breath” of God. Animals possess the divine spark of life—the living quality that is the soul—and they are not inferior beings, as factory farmers, fur farmers, and others who exploit animals for profit would have us believe.

    1. kerri lee says:

      It was obvious to me BEFORE this one man changed the catholic mind and made a big proclamation… why would we wait for him to say it before we know it?

      1. Annee says:

        Because not every Human has common sense…… Some Humans as are animals are born pre-dosed …… Last but not least if a Human does not believe in God then they would not believe that a God made man or animal .

      2. sherie otteson says:

        i agree with you kerri! i knew this and you knew this! i am sure others knew it as well. why did we need for this man to say it for us!?

      3. the other ghost girl says:

        I’m not catholic, but that was a way of confirmation. Many preachers taught that animals don’t have souls and thus can’t feel pain. This was his way of rectifying that problem.

    2. Pat Mura says:

      I am appalled at the callousness disregard of an animal’s worth of which is in the care and at the mercy of the Copenhagen Zoo. I believe those responsible should be punished accordingly, including never able to work with animals again.

    3. Miriam Stokes says:

      This was nothing more than saving $$$$ for food for the lions…let’s face the facts. that amount of food would have cost easily $3000 +
      this had nothing to do with breeding; genes; teaching children anatomy; they had to satisfy their zoo income by feeding the lions (which did not satisfy their need to hunt and kill” such sad lions that have no other purpose but to be exhibited for the sorry humans who think this is ok.

    4. Susan says:

      Beautiful, pretty much explains how wrong this was…

    5. Laurie Armer says:

      I am not Catholic, I am Christian but, fyi, it was ONLY in 1997 that animal advocates were able to convince the Vatican to repeal its ancient rule that black cats should be killed on sight as they are of the Devil!! 1997!!! Imho, God made male and female humans in white, black, brown, red, yellow, olive BUT look at the time and effort He put into His animals!! Therefore, who do you think He loves more?

  2. Claire Eye says:

    The slaughter of “extraneous” animals for “educational” purposes is laughable at best – heinous at worst. I’ve read of a second Danish zoo planning the same thing with another “unneeded” giraffe. How dare you. Shame.

  3. Julie says:

    This news shocked the hell out of me. I am so attached to animals that it made me cry, pray and write emails for the responsible team behind this horrific act. Such a loss for the “wildlife” and such a shame for humanity. Seriously sick!

  4. Sharon DuBois says:

    RIP, Marius.

    And, rot in hell those who chose this act of inhumanity to a gracious and healthy young animal who had offers of safe places to go.

  5. Audrey says:

    This zoo needs to he shut down, bought out, whatever, rescue the animals that are left n let this be an example to close all zoo s!!!?

  6. Nadisha SIlva says:

    This is atrocious. I imagine the children were scarred. What a terrible message. We should be striving to teach our children to respect this planet and all that inhabit it.

  7. Carol Reins says:

    How could you kill him and feed him to lions, and worse, in front of children? Your zoo is a abattoir!

    1. jamie says:

      i totally agree with you. also teaching our children that it is ok to kill. i do not think the children needed to see this let alone be invited to watch it. all lives have value even so called surplus one.

  8. Sally says:

    Who are to decide who will & who will die? To me they deserve the same fate. I have signed so many things that affect Marius that I wonder if any one really reads this. Everyone knows he was murdered. So do the right thing & inprison everyone who was involved with his slaughter. Who do they think they are killing him? They are not GOD!I hope everyone involed with this DIES a HORRIBLE DEATH !!!!!!!

  9. Diane Nassir, M.A. says:

    This is hideous and barbaric on so many many levels and having children witness this-they will be traumatized for life watching this murder. The people responsible must be fired immediately, and this must never ever ever happen again!

  10. Brenda Lee says:

    I can’t believe what I’m reading, you Zoo people are disgusting and the lowest of the low. How dare you kill one of God’s beautiful creations, for no reason, then terrify children with your acts. We need to teach children to love and respect not murder, you sick POS…

  11. D. Weiler says:

    This Danish zoo is a killing field. STOP THE KILLING!!!I’m past words to describe how I feel about this zoo&it’s giraffe murderer!! NO MORE MURDER AT YOUR ZOO!!!

  12. Dawn Friello says:

    This is beyond sick , cruel how can this be legal? That Giraffe did no wrong the zoo did shame on them and in front of children at that WTF is wrong with those scums, and many other people were willing to buy and save him THEZOO SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN PEOPLE ARE HEARTLESS

  13. Erica Brown says:

    If parents want their children to see nature at its rawest, they can watch a housecat catch, play with, and kill a fieldmouse. Some of these children were crying and had their hands over their faces. Arguments that outcries are due to the exotic nature of the animal, that we don’t do anything about the way animals we eat are killed, are not the point. The zoo did this for effect, to force its own pedagogical point, and because it had the power to do so. Killing a healthy tree is bad, killing a healthy giraffe whom you bred, raised, and then decided was superfluous says oceans about how you view animals. Find another job. Maybe somewhere where they still hold public executions.

  14. ilonka goode says:

    this zoo should be closed down for cuelty of animals and all the poor creatures taken away given to a sanctury

  15. June Kovac says:

    To those responsible for killing a precious healthy creature who deserved at all costs to live…you should be ashamed for the this crime of unspeakable cruelty to a defenseless,loving animal. How you can look in the mirror and sleep peacefully at night after this atrocious act… All responsible need to be jailed,fired,fined. This ‘zoo’ needs to be shut down. You are a blight to all individuals who are true animal lovers.

  16. Klara Larsen says:

    I have written to Danish newspapers and the readers are ripping me apart. I don’t care about the readers, but since I’m Danish, It hurts me, that my family at home along with 20.000 other Danes protested and nothing came of it. I hold my head down in shame. They even said , they don’t care if the Americans don’t buy their products or come there on vacation. Maybe we should take them up on that.

    1. Denise Gallagher says:

      Dear Kiara–

      You have done nothing wrong and have no reason to be ashamed just because you are Danish. You are right that maybe we should take them up on not traveling to that zoo or that city. I wish I could understand what makes people act in such savage ways.

      Denise Gallagher

  17. Sherry says:

    I cannot believe the heartless people that are allowed to make these decisions. We cannot afford to have people like this running a place like that. And parents, what were you thinking allowing you children to view such a horrendous thing under the guise of a learning experience. I too wonder if anyone takes these petitions as seriously as those who sign it them. I dislike Zoos. This, to me, only adds to the reasons why I don’t like Zoo or the people who are allowed to make these choices. I also don’t like places that pluck dolphins and whales from our oceans as their slaves to earn money. We are all visitors on this planet. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN TO YET ANOTHER ANIMAL.

  18. LISA TANG says:


  19. roe lamirand says:

    Needless senseless killing for what? Ego because they could? Of course the dolphin slaughter should have warned me. A senseless slaughter. What have you taught children? That an animal with no fear of humans it had known all its life was ok to slaughter? Hope they do not apply your savage message on their household pets. Don’t you know that psychopaths, sociopaths and serial killers often have animal torture, mutilation and slaughter in their childhood backgrounds. What a lesson it is OK to kill for no reason. Arrogant bastards.

  20. Suzie Clippinger says:

    History has demonstrated that EUGENICS IS A FAILED STUDY….. A common criticism of eugenics is that “it inevitably leads to measures that are unethical”. A hypothetical scenario posits that if one racial minority group is perceived on average less intelligent than the racial majority group, then it is more likely that the racial minority group will be submitted to a eugenics program rather than the least intelligent members of the whole population. H. L. Kaye wrote of “the obvious truth that eugenics has been discredited by Hitler’s crimes”. R. L. Hayman argued “the eugenics movement is an anachronism, its political implications exposed by the Holocaust”. Quote from Wikipedia

  21. Michele Poole says:

    Most people do not know the dark side of zoos. Yes, there are some that do substantial rescue work and participate in captive breeding programs for threatened/endanger animals BUT….
    ANY institution whose goal it is to make a profit is highly susceptibile to corruption and decisions not based on the animals best well-being. Zoos are not sanctuaries! There is a HUGE difference.
    When zoos have ” surplus” animals, those animals are often sold off ending up targets for canned hunts or sold to private “roadside” zoos with no accreditation to regulate animal husbandry and treatment, and no veterinarians to treat highly specialized animals.
    Some zoos purchase animals that are wild caught and many of those animals end up dying from the intense stress.
    Bottom line: THIS zoo did the wrong thing. It should be discredited from any zoological institution and hit with heavy fines. All the leadership should be fired and a civilian review board should be formed and new leadership elected. A public apology should be issued and all current policies reviewed.
    Sadly, none of this will bring Marius back.

  22. Christine Aspinall says:

    What kind of ‘educational lesson’ does this teach? It teaches that humans are less civilized than the animals they kill! It teaches youngsters that it is quite O.K. to purposely gun down a defenseless animal (or human!). These ‘people’ (?) had so many options to save this little giraffe including offers to buy him. They chose to kill him instead! Well, it may turn out to be a very ‘costly education’ for them! Twisted minds! Did they ever stop to think of the impression this horror would leave on children’s sensitive minds? I would sue an organization for slaughtering an animal in front of my children. How dare they?

  23. Daniele Halle says:

    Somebody said it is inhuman, I disagree, it is all true human, we are the only living thing that kill ” just because ” I cried! but that’s what it is, I hate humans

  24. Julie says:

    I want all zoos closed. I want humans to make real room for animals, and get out of their natural habitat. We are pitiful. Harming anyone is for the broken. Building up is for the strong.

  25. Beth says:

    Disgusting and in humane how did they kill that poor creature? Please tell me it was painless

  26. Meliya says:

    No matter how you look at this it is SICK !!!!!!! SOmeone should pay the same price that poor Marius did ! In fact, several people should. There were many offers of rescues for this baby ! Anyone involved with or who participated in the torture, murder, mutilation & feeding of this baby SHOULD PAY DEARLY !!!!!!!!!

  27. gayle wright says:

    Pity the pope didnt say one of the commandments is thy shalt no KILL! which means just that , but they only apply that to animals coz people kill animals needlessly every single day , when they just have to eat vegie an fruits an then they they wouldnt get highblood pressure karma for eating animals, price to pay for all hopeless actions by humans its called “karma” what you do to other beings be it animals or humans , will happen to those who do wrong! we are not God to take life only God can to that, we humans can not act like god even though we are god but better our action should be in alignment towards that! amen

  28. Fiona Cowley says:

    This was one of the most diabolical atrocities I have seen. Not just in the act of murder, but doing it in front of impressionable children. The Danes are not showing themselves in a good light and I think need a wake up call to bring them into the 21st Century. I am not an activist , but I can assure you half the world is fast going that way. We will not take this type of action lying down. The Danes are about to kill another giraffe in the same way ironically also known as Marius. We cannot let them go ahead Please! They diassociate themselves from The Faroe Islands, where thousands of pilot whales are slaughtered anuallly. they say this is a tradition – well some traditions have to go. THe Faroes fall under The Kingdom of Denmark ( not in the EU)how can they deny association? Evoloution its called in case they dont realise it. Letting children witness atrocities like this as they also do in the Faroe Islands where young chilren crawl over dying whales, as if these creatures mean nothing.This is nothing short of barbarism. They must be told they are not Vikings anymore and if they want to stay a member of the EU they had better start cleaning up their act. Please dont let the next Marius share the fate of his namesake.

  29. Carol Roan-Dennis says:

    This was a very dark day for animals and human beings alike. We are trying to teach children to respect and be kind to all living things. They don’t know what a surplus is or eugenics. They only know that a beautiful, healthy creature was slaughtered by orders from a heartless, ruthless individual and that it was totally unnecessary. There were other options available. What were they trying to prove with this open display of barbarism?

  30. carole says:

    Money control humans,and this poor Marius has been victim of this!

  31. Betty says:

    A disgrace to all I ever believed in. Killing due to needs in population and for breeding. Hasn’t this happened in history before and why haven’t we learned? The Jews didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes so they were exterminated. I don’t know about you but “I remember.”
    May sweet innocent Marius RIP and let’s not allow this to happen again.

  32. amit more says:

    The one who killed the giraffe should be punished he has no right to kill a animal the zoo has no right. Has any Action being taken against them?

  33. N says:

    We just have to increase the cost of killing animals in the zoos to change their decision making process. Outright boycotting the zoos is one way of increasing the cost of inhumane treatment and killing but sadly it will force the zoos to further kill and abuse the animals they keep captive. The only solution that comes to mind that can improve the lives of zoo animals is to boycott unrelated business in the communities where the zoos are and to educate, fund raise, establish and aid animal right groups and sanctuaries and write to the organizations and politicians that govern these establishments. We need to make mangers and politicians and especially businesses to realize thre is a cost to their inaction or the supports of these awful policies and conditions. That’s why we must start with boycotting all Danish products and write their tourist boards and embassies to tell them of our displeasure and reasons for our boycott. If killing Marius or other animals means a loss of millions in revenues and a lasting tarnished image that might force them to consider investing in a sanctuary for the surplus animals or find more himain solutions before having public killings. Denmark is rich enough not to have to kill animals in their care or should consider a form of birth control to avoid similar situations to happen in the first place.

  34. andrea proscia says:

    This is just a huge error,like the dog

  35. Denise Gallagher says:

    This made me literally sick. It clearly was not for profit. Are there just sadists working at the zoo??? This was the last thing I thought of before I went to sleep and the first thing I thought of this morning when I woke up. I fear that it was legal in Denmark which means there is no legal remedy. What can we do to keep this kind of thing from happening again?

  36. LETTY says:

    Que decepción el ejemplo dado al mundo por tan baja acción, sobre todo, habiendo alternativas para reubicarle en otro zoo donde pudo haber sido querido y bien cuidado. MARIUS deja en nosotros a flor de piel la crueldad que aún existe hacia los animales indefensos sacrificados sin ninguna razón.

  37. jenny christidou says:

    Shameful action indeed.Zoos are supposed to preserve and protect species.In this case poor Marius never even had the chance to try to defend and save herself-which is something she could do if in the wild.All responsible and irresponsible in the zoo should be penalized and punished stictly,not only for the horrible and brutal act but also for the crime to act so in front of children!!!

  38. Mandy Baldwin says:

    A small group of us (just mums and animal lovers, from three different countries in Europe) are preparing to bring legal action against the Holst, the zoo, and the school which brought the children there. If we can get them, we can change the way this is handled in future. The Danes are showing an absolute contempt for the whole business – they think it is funny. And they are hoping we will shut up and go away. They despise us for being “soft” and “Disneyfied”. So please let them know – this isn’t going away. Please keep on protesting, arguing, and keeping this in the public eye.

    1. Shell says:

      You go,girl!:-)

  39. Linda says:

    I wonder about the mindset of the parents who allowed the children to witness such an atrocity! Animals DO feel pain and those who don’t believe that are just plain ignorant. What a horrible world we are creating when we allow something like this to happen when, obviously, there were other answers. I do not like zoos – just because I feel sad for the creatures that are bored and depressed at being forced to live a life so unlike what they were born to live. Shame!

  40. judith McSwain says:

    And What type of parents allowed their children to watch this. The parents are as complicit as the zoo. Maybe even more so

  41. It’s sickening how Copenhagen Zoo tries to justify their heinous decision to kill Marius in the name of “conservation” and as “euthanasia.” Breeding animals for a life in captivity and killing them because they are deemed “surplus” is not conservation. Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. They killed a beautiful healthy living being by shooting him in the head with a bolt-action rifle ( It is reported that: “A veterinarian shot Marius with a rifle as he leaned down to munch on rye bread, a favorite snack” ) and then to further disgrace Marius, publicly butchered him; what a horrific lesson to teach children. Everyone involved in this despicable act should be ashamed of themselves and held accountable for their diabolical actions. They have no ethics, morals, compassion or respect for life. There is NO justification for what Copenhagen Zoo did; other facilities offered to take Marius and were refused. No matter how much PR spin they dish out, they will be remembered – worldwide – for their gruesome, despicable, senseless killing of Marius.

    1. Shell says:

      This is absolutely gut-wrenching! To deem any living,breathing,thinking,feeling being with it’s own individuallity and purpose as “surplus” and/or “worthlessness” is a pure example of human hypocracy and ignorance!!!
      “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play.Every individual makes a difference.”
      -Jane Goodall

  42. Bev Stayart says:

    All the beautiful rhetoric in the world will not restore Marius to the living, a reality we must all cope with. I am still in denial that this evil zoo actually murdered Marius and then further disrespected him by dissecting him and throwing him to the lions. This is beyond cruelty. We must boycott the Copenhagen Zoo, the country of Denmark, all Danish products, and never travel to Denmark. If we do not successfully boycott Denmark they will have gotten away with the murder of Marius, and he will fade from our memory. But we can show Denmark that we refuse to recognize their existence by boycotting them. Please do so now.

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