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Danish zoo criticized for dissecting lion in front of crowd

Some were disgusted. Others were curious as Danish zoo officials carved up a lion carcass in a public dissection on Thursday.

Officials at Denmark’s Odense Zoo said that the dissection was educational, teaching adults and children alike about the anatomy of a lion. The event was purposely held on an annual school holiday so that more children would have the opportunity to attend.

“For all the kids living in towns, it’s wonderful for them to see and it’s only natural,” said Gitte Johanson, a visitor who grew up outside the city himself.

Animal rights activists have been critical of Odense Zoo’s decision to kill the lion, along with two of its siblings. This was done in order to prevent inbreeding and is a common practice in zoos throughout Europe.

Head of the Humane Society International/Europe, Joanna Swabe, made a statement saying that “zoos routinely over-breed and kill lions and thousands of other animals deemed surplus to requirements.”

She went on to say that zoos should be more responsible, using contraceptive methods in order to prevent over-breeding and maintain a healthy population.

American zoos commonly use contraceptives in order to limit the amount of animals that must be killed due to overpopulation. However, this practice has also been criticized by some, claiming that it disrupts the animals’ natural behavior.

This is not the first time that the Odense Zoo has been criticized. In February 2014, the zoo publicly dissected a giraffe and then proceeded to feed it to lions. Public dissections have taken place at the zoo for the past 20 years.

Zoo employee Lotte Tranberg told reporters that the lion and its siblings were killed because they had reached sexual maturity and could have potentially started mating with each other. The zoo wanted to avoid inbreeding. They also could have potentially killed each other, as they would have had to share and enclosure space.

Zoo officials say that the lions had been killed after multiple attempts to rehome them in other zoos had failed. The dissected lion’s siblings remain in the zoo’s freezer. The staff have not decided what they will do with the lions yet.

Before the dissection began, Tranberg told the crowd of people about the lives of big cats. Tranberg then proceeded to cut into the lion carcass. She held the lion’s organs up for the crowd to see. Children asked questions, and Tranberg was happy to answer them.

On Thursday, many took to the Odense Zoo’s Facebook page to criticize their decision. People said that the zoo lacked compassion. Ordinary Danes took to the Facebook page to defend the zoo’s actions.

“Life isn’t the Disney Channel. Get over it …” one commenters wrote.

Public dissections are quite common in Denmark. Denmark’s Funen Village open-air museum dissected a pig on Wednesday for a group of children. They explained which parts of the pig were eaten. Odense Zoo has been voted the “Best Zoo in Europe” in the category of zoos that have up to 500,000 visitors annually between 2013 and 2015.

About Jillian Gordon

Jillian Gordon
Jillian is a writer from Edmonton, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Alberta and loves all sorts of cultural phenomena. In addition to writing, Jillian's hobbies include photography and playing roller derby.