Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Euthanizing Healthy Animals

View of Animal Enclosure From Bikini-Haus Terrace

The Bikini-Haus is an upscale shopping center located next to the Berlin Zoo and is considered an architectural landmark. Built in 1955-1957, the building was originally a fashion house, which produced and sold women's clothing and furs. The name refers to the structure that was divided into two sections: one for sales and one for production. The building was completely gutted in 2010; and in 2014, it opened as one of Berlin's premier shopping venues. At the back of the complex is a terrace that spans the length of the shopping center, affording views of the Zoo.

Walking through this complex, I was struck by its ordinariness. The ubiquitous shops could be anywhere. However, what makes this place 'special' and a tourist attraction are its views of the zoo. On the inside and on the outside terrace, shoppers can see various zoo exhibits.
Bikini-Haus Terrace


Looking at the baby baboons at play, I felt sad. You see in Europe, zoos do not use contraception on their animal populations and routinely euthanize animals to maintain population control. European zoos argue that parental care is a big part of an animal's behavior, and that euthanizing surplus offspring (once they reach maturity) only mimics what would occur naturally in the wild. Because zoos have eliminated an animal's predatory and anti-predatory behaviors, parenting is one of the few natural things zoo animals can do. Moreover, contraception isn't a better alternative to euthanasia since in addition to preventing natural parenthood, it puts an animal at risk. Birth control has long-term side effects and associated health risks. 
Baboons at Play


Of course, in a perfect world, we wouldn't need zoos. Animals could live in nature. But environmental degradation, loss of habitat, and human encroachment, have left many animal species near extinction. Zoos may be the only safe haven left for animals. Whether scientifically managed euthanasia is the right course to follow depends on your view of life. In any case, it's an option that shouldn't be discounted.

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