Danish zoos deny reports of feeding donated pets to lions

Two Danish zoos have denied earlier reports by TV2 channel that they were accepting unwanted pets as food for their carnivores.

In a reply to the Russian news outlet Newsru, a spokesman for the Copenhagen Zoo said he regrets the zoo's practices were distorted by TV2's report. "We used to accept dead rabbits as a component of feeding, but this process requires too much paperwork, and we have abandoned the practice," the zoo's press secretary replied to the outlet's request.

The director of the Givskud zoo, the other one implicated in the TV2 report, admitted the zoo accepts rodents and rabbits from private owners to feed its carnivores. However, he said they were not pets, but specially bred feed animals. In a separate reply to RT's Ruptly video agency, the director said they were expecting a delivery of rabbits that were to be euthanized before being fed to the predators.

In a December 20 report, TV2 quoted Copenhagen zookeeper Sophie Eller as saying that eating rabbits and hamsters was "good for the animals to have a varied diet," their fur is "fun to chew on," and the intestines "super-healthy." The report implied the rabbits were pets donated to the zoo, and being fed to lions was an alternative to being put down and incinerated.

The report was picked up on by Sputnik and RT, who requested comment from the zoos and an animal rights activist.

It also caused outrage with the Russian Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Sergey Donskoy, who called the alleged practice "civilized barbarity" in a Facebook post.