Am I right in thinking that opinion about this in the comments is destined to break down along conservative/RINO lines, as cultural debates typically do? If you’re a squish, you’re horrified by it. If you’re a righty, meh. Cycle of life. He got a better end than 99 percent of giraffes in the wild do.

They “euthanized” him by dangling some rye bread in front of him to lure him over, then fired a round from a bolt-action rifle into his brain when he bent down to taste it. If they had given him a lethal injection, they said, they wouldn’t have been able to use the meat. And they would never waste that much free meat.

The zoo said it had no choice but to euthanize the 2-year-old giraffe because Marius was part of an international breeding program whose bylaws prohibit inbreeding in an effort to maintain the health of the stock.

“The purpose of the breeding program is to have as healthy a population as possible, not only now, but in the future,” said the zoo’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, in an interview with TIME. “As this giraffe’s genes are overrepresented in the breeding program, the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes has agreed that Copenhagen Zoo euthanize him.”…

Did Marius have to die? Other alternatives, like administering contraceptives, can cause side effects like renal failure. And neutering the young giraffe would have diminished his quality of life, says Holst. “Our most important objective is to ensure that the animals have the best life they can for as long as they live, whether that’s 20 years or two years. Breeding and parenting are especially important behaviors for a giraffe’s well-being. We didn’t want to interfere with that.”

Two zoos offered to take him but were turned down for reasons that aren’t completely clear. One, in Sweden, wouldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t sell him to a circus; the other, in Yorkshire, was denied because it too had a population of giraffes genetically similar to Marius, according to Time mag. This quote, though, makes it sound like there was a turf-war aspect to it:

However, Lesley Dickie, Executive Director of European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), said this was not a viable option. “As for alternative solutions, we cannot in good conscience recommend the transfer of animals under our protection to zoos which are not our members and therefore not subject to our strict standards of animal husbandry and welfare; transfer within our network does not represent a solution to the unsuitability of the individual animal for breeding.

The Yorkshire facility says it has a state-of-the-art giraffe house built just two years ago for its four male giraffes, one of whom came from the same Copenhagen zoo as Marius. If Yorkshire was good enough for the earlier transfer and if, because of the all-male population, breeding wasn’t an issue there, why wasn’t Marius sent over?

Better question: Why the international uproar, which now includes death threats towards the Copenhagen staff? What’s bothering people more than the fact of euthanizing a healthy animal, I think, is how they handled it. We all understand that zoos have a scientific purpose. We understand that populations are culled sometimes even in captivity. What we don’t instinctively understand is how zookeepers, who are caregivers to these animals, could compartmentalize their emotions for them to the point where they could take a healthy giraffe they’ve raised since birth and summarily kill it, display the corpse, then hack it up in front of a crowd when they had options that involved sparing him. The detail about luring him over with the bread before blowing him away haunts me especially. These things aren’t pets, but they’re not unlike pets in the degree to which they depend on their handlers to survive. It’s a betrayal of trust. Even if the culling was necessary, which is debatable, is there no residue of affection for these animals among the staff sufficient to get them to do this privately, in a less violent way? They can’t have needed the giraffe meat that badly. (In fact, they had an offer of several hundred thousand dollars to let the giraffe live.) And it isn’t so important to teach kids the “cycle of life” that they’d send a giraffe alive into the lion’s den to show everyone what happens. If we’re going to snatch animals from the wild for our own amusement, there has to be a better plan for handling the expendables.

Exit question: How much of an uproar would there have been if Marius had belonged to a more aggressive, less cuddly species? Probably no death threats if he was Marius the alligator, I assume.