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February 9: World Zoothanasia Day for Animals Needlessly Killed by Zoos

February 9: World Zoothanasia Day for Animals Needlessly Killed by Zoos

In Defense of Animals and Dr. Marc Bekoff* declared February 9 World Zoothanasia Day after Packy, a 54-year-old elephant was killed by the Oregon Zoo in 2017 despite one of Packy's keepers stating that he was active, engaged, and showing no signs of pain or discomfort from his incurable tuberculosis. We mark this day in honor of Packy, and for the many other animals who are needlessly killed by zoos each year.

*Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Zoothanasia is one of the dark secrets of the zoo industry, where there is limited room, and limited budgets, for animals. Old, ill, “extra” and genetically over-represented animals are often considered to be “surplus.” If these animals cannot be sent to other zoos or facilities, they are often killed to free up space for younger, genetically promising animals who can breed, and keep ticket sales pouring in. This cold, hard truth was summed up by a comment reportedly made by a member of the Oregon Zoo staff in a meeting prior to Packy’s death, "How much is a 54 year old bull worth compared to a four-year-old reproductive calf?"

Even young animals are killed. In 2014, at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, Marius, an 18 month old giraffe was killed - zoothanized - to prevent future inbreeding at the zoo. According to the zoo directors, his genes, “were already well represented among giraffes at the zoo.” He was shot in front of visitors, dissected, and his remains fed to other carnivores at the Zoo.

In January of this year, a Swedish zoo admitted to killing nine perfectly healthy lion cubs in the last six years. “Management euthanasia” is the technical term sometimes used by zoos in their attempts to sanitize and legitimize this horrific practice that is sanctioned by the zoo industry, yet remains largely underreported. Animals living in zoos are at the mercy of humans for every aspect of their existence. They are owned as property, exploited as slaves, traded as commodities, and disposed of as burdensome waste when nothing else can be extracted from their lives. Too many zoos have reckless and mismanaged breeding programs, and zoothanasia is yet another shameful consequence of their failures. While zoo conservation programs claim to be committed to protecting and valuing specific species, the individuals of those species are not protected when they are treated as disposable commodities.

Please join us on Friday, February 9, at 12:00 noon for a one minute silence to remember the countless animal victims of unethical zoo killings. Through World Zoothanasia Day, we are bringing attention to this horrific practice, and calling out zoos to become ethically accountable in their reckless and barbaric treatment of the sentient, emotionally aware, non-human persons they hold captive.

If you're near Portland, please join us at the World Zoothanasia Day Rally at Oregon Zoo on Saturday, February 10 at 12:00 noon to honor Packy the elephant and other animal victims.

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