Feed ’em to the lions: Danish zoos reportedly let hungry predators eat visitors' pets

If your old pet has to be put down anyway, why not feed it to a hungry lion? That's an option now on offer at two Danish zoos, local TV2 channel reports, sparking outrage from animal rights activists.

UPDATE: Danish zoos deny reports of feeding donated pets to lions

Visitors to Copenhagen zoo, no stranger to controversy, and Givskud Zoo, some 20 km from the city of Vejle in central Denmark, may now have to brace themselves for the bloody spectacle of cute little hamsters and bunny rabbits being savagely ripped to shreds by an apex predator. This unusual scheme, which has come under fire for its cruelty, has been initiated by the two zoos to give their carnivores a more varied diet as well as to teach children about the animals’ true nature.

“It's good for the animals to have a varied diet, so it's not always a horse or a cow. Plus there is fur that is fun to chew on, and their intestines are super-healthy for them,” Copenhagen zookeeper Sophie Eller told Denmark’s TV2 channel.

“People are emotional, so we spend a lot of time telling them what is about to happen. I think people would prefer something meaningful, rather than just having them [pets] put down and incinerated.”

“When people come here with their rabbits, it is to have them put down. We don't want to hide it from children,” added Givskud Zoo director Richard Osterballe, claiming that the measure wasn’t just another way for people to kill off their pets.

Not all pets are fit to be a lion’s dinner – the zoos draw the line at cats and dogs, as they can’t be found in the wild, while horses have to go on a three-month waiting list due to limited space.

Contacted by Ruptly about the reports of the practice of donating pets as lion food, a representative of the Givskud zoo replied that they were expecting a scheduled delivery of rabbits, which were going to be euthanized before being fed to the predators. He did not confirm or deny the existence of the pet donation practice.

While certainly animals meet brutal and painful deaths in nature, to suffer such a fate at the hands of humans who are supposed to love and care for them is needlessly cruel, PETA’s Director of International Programs Mimi Bekhechi told RT.

“The idea of taking your animal companion to the zoo to be served as a lion’s dinner is absolutely sickening. It can show people what zoos are really about. They are not institutions that care about animals, they are institutions that care about making money,” Bekhechi said.

“When you are the guardian for an animal, there is a responsibility that comes along with that and that’s a responsibility to protect it, to care for that animal, and when the time comes to make sure the animal won’t suffer.”

The Copenhagen zoo has come under fire for its seemingly callous treatment of animals before. In 2014 it publicly killed and dissected a healthy giraffe named Marcus “to avoid inbreeding,” and then later put down two lions and their cubs to make room for a new male lion.