I cannot believe that Copenhagen Zoo chose to kill Marius (a young giraffe), for easy compliance with the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes. I hope the Copenhagen Zoo (each and every individual that works for this institution) will reflect on their actions and consider the moral principles that should guide their actions. If the Copenhagen Zoo chooses to reflect on their actions, I am convinced that they will find that they wrongly killed Marius; I expect them to either understand (1) killing Marius is (or close to) the worst possible option for maximizing the long-term health of the giraffe population, or (2) because simply maximizing the health of the long-term health of the giraffe population is not the single factor for consideration. (I am not an expert in biology readers, so please correct me if there is any suspicion that I am mistaken on anything anywhere)
(1) Killing Marius is (or close to) the worst possible option for maximizing the long-term health of the giraffe population. The Zoo scientific director’s appeal to the long-term health of the giraffe population alone is a weak argument to justify killing Marius. According to the Zoo, Marius is born from inbreeding, or the breeding of close relatives. It seems the concern is that Marius has a higher chance of having biological defects or comparative disadvantages to giraffes of normal breeding (or in other words, a shortage of genetic diversity), because the offspring of inbreeding has a less diverse gene pool for selection while normal breeding usually involves a more diverse gene pool.
However, these reasons are not sufficient for justifying the killing of Marius. Marius may bear a high genetic resemblance to his parents, but the Zoo provides insufficient evidence that Marius poses a long-term health risk to the giraffe population. First, they should complete a genetic analysis. Second, even if the Zoo has evidence that Marius poses a genetic threat to the giraffes at the Copenhagen Zoo, the Zoo must show evidence that Marius is a genetic threat to other zoos as well, before the Zoo can justify the killing of Marius – especially when other zoos and activist groups are presenting options to take care of Marius, and relieve the Zoo of a long-term health threat.
(2) Simply maximizing the health of the long-term health of the giraffe population is not the single factor for considerations. I do not believe genetic superiority is the sole aim of the Zoo, nor any social institution. Perhaps, the Zoo wishes to appeal to the belief that the aim of nature is genetic progress and that inbreeding poses a threat to genetic richness, but I cannot see any appeal in this. I think we all have an intuitive notion that one’s genetic make up does not devalue one’s life – not a person’s nor an animal. A better argument from the Zoo is possibly an appeal to the welfare of the giraffe population and that offsprings of inbreeding decreases its welfare, but this does not justify the killing of Marius, because I believe animals have rights to life. Even if the right is not unconditional, it seems the Zoo does not bear sufficient evidence for the killing of Marius.
Please share your opinion on this issue below.
Why do you think killing Marius was right or wrong?