This was a perfectly healthy young lion, killed at nine months of age not because she was sick or injured, but simply because nobody wanted her. Just like Marius the giraffe shot with a bolt to the head at Copenhagen Zoo last year, she is one of an estimated 5,000 animals bred in captivity each year in European zoos but killed because they are considered surplus to requirements, genetically undesirable for the zoo's breeding programme.
For the last seven years, I've spent a portion of the school holidays doing live shows at some of the nation's best-known zoos. The shows attract thousands, mostly families with younger kids, and most leave with big smiles on their faces. I do however every year receive a number of messages that go something like this: "You're a massive hypocrite. You claim to be a conservationist, to care about wild animals, and yet you endorse institutions that keep these noble beasts imprisoned behind bars." My stance on this criticism - for which I have a certain amount of sympathy - is rather too complex to get across in 140 characters or less, so I decided to offer a more considered response to the ethics of keeping wild animals in captivity.
Zoos carry out conservation, they rescue animals, they educate people and delight millions of visitors a year. But a vast number of zoos are also responsible for immense cruelty, open the door to illegally sourced wildlife and capture wild animals for our pleasure. Is keeping of animals in captivity the ultimate oxymoron animal welfare?
I genuinely believe applying personhood protection to non-human animals is a wonderful concept, which I support wholeheartedly if it continues to drive forward better welfare practices and respect for animals in general. The downfall will be if it only mediates a short-term change to a few individual animals.