That Danish giraffe is all over the news today, and the world is in uproar. A giraffe, in case you haven't heard, was humanely killed in a zoo (to prevent in breeding), and then chopped up and fed to the lions. The public were allowed to watch if they wished, and some children were present for the event which was really quite shocking to those unaccustomed to seeing butchery. Which is most of us. Cue hysteria! How shocking that we should allow children to see one animal being fed another! Especially when said animal is so cute, with big Bambi eyes!
As someone who's life has been somewhat taken over by animals, I am the first who would speak up on the side of the furry, and yet I find myself kind of bothered by the reaction that so many have had to this. How could we have reached a stage where vaster than ever quantities of meat are produced for our consumption, living miserable over crowded lives up until their miserable deaths, and yet a humanely killed zoo animal being fed to its natural predator, is so shocking that it becomes a major news story? Is it because there was a duty to care, given it that the giraffe was raised at the zoo? But we raise battery and free range chickens, pigs etc, who are eventually slaughtered. Or is it the bond? If so, isn't that a little unfair to the animals we have not given the opportunity to bond with a human? Most British meat eaters would happily eat steak, but draw the line at horse meat or dog meat.
Our own garden chickens are arriving soon, and I'm looking forward to explaining the circle of life and the food chain, to my young nieces and nephews. I remember religiously watching David Attenborough documentaries at their age, gripped, sometimes unable to bear to watch. It really should be part of the curriculum and I'm so happy that my youngest family members will get to eat fresh eggs, and understand where they come from, which isn't supermarket shelves.
When our chickens are too old to produce eggs, they will be humanely killed and eaten, probably served as dog food, as free range raw chicken is what our dogs mostly eat. My nieces and nephews are going to be able to understand first hand, that Hilda, Gertrude (maybe i shouldn't name them) and the others are part of the food chain. They won't end up suffering old age. We won't be paying to feed birds that produce no eggs. So the story goes.
It is interesting to note that among my friends and acquaintances, the vegetarians are largely those who grew up in rural locations, and made a choice at a young age about how they felt about animals and consuming meat. The Londoners have often managed to stick their head in the sand and avoid the issue. There's no 'nature red in tooth and claw' in neatly packaged Tesco items.
I'm all for being a veggie, and am almost there myself, apart from the odd bit of wild pheasant or something. Something that has a happy life and a quick end. But I would kill a suffering animal in a heartbeat, and in fact have had old or physically suffering dogs put down , and have even killed a half alive squirrel recently. It wasn't nice, but it was less awful than watching it squirm and squeak, waiting to die.
Death is part of the circle of life, not something to fear and dread. It's often a merciful release, but let's not get started on euthanasia too!
I bet Tesco value chickens have a miserable life, and if seeing a butchered giraffe makes a few people think about where their food comes from, and swap the Tesco chicken for a veggie alternative, or free ranging meat, it'll have done a lot more for worldwide animal welfare than mummies who can't bear for their children to see giraffe Bambi becoming a consumed part of the food chain. Teaching your children that it's just cute animals, or their own pets that matter, is wrong. You either care about animals or you don't, it can't be "just these ones", what about the rats that get poisoned every day in all our major cities? What about the animals slaughtered to make fluffy hats and coats? Having said that, some animals, horses, dogs, cats, a rat and a goat, have become my friends, and because I know them personally, I could never eat nor kill them if they were healthy. And in truth I'm probably going to end up with a load of old non egg producing chickens when push comes to shove. I'm aware that I've anthropomorphised them, but my dogs, especially, are real loving characters and part of my family.
I must admit, that young giraffe butchering video really shocked me too. So maybe I'm just as confused as the activists.