Analyzing the song;At the Zoo

1967, when Paul Simon wrote the lyrics to his song At the Zoo, he was singing of all the fun in going to the Central Park Zoo. “Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo. I do believe it. I do believe it’s true. … And the animals will love it if you do.”

But maybe not all the animals will love it. On a Sunday morning in early February of 2014, a very healthy giraffe named Marius enjoyed a good feeding in Copenhagen, Denmark, and then was shot in the head by the zoo’s veterinarian. The problem for Marius was being too closely related to the other giraffes and therefore useless as a breeder to the zoo. They killed him with a gun to the head so they could dissect him later that day as a lesson in science for the viewing public, children too, and then feed his healthy flesh to the lions. Many viewers paid to enjoy their day with their children at the zoo. They learned a lot.

“It’s all happening at the zoo. The monkeys stand for honesty. Giraffes are insecure.” And with good reason, it seems, though other zoos had offered to give Marius a home more secure.

The zoo director knew protesters would complain but, as quoted in the Guardian, he stated that “we’ve made this decision on a factual and proper basis. We can’t all of a sudden change …because of some emotional events happening around us.” And furthermore, public dissections are not unheard of at the zoo. In fact, he said: “People are fascinated by it, both adults and children, and they would like to hear stories they normally don’t have access to. I think that’s good. It helps increase the knowledge about animals but also the knowledge about life and death.” (The Guardian, 2/9/14, Lars Eriksen and Maev Kennedy).

Here the chief of the Copenhagen zoo explains the killing from the zoo’s perspective: LINK (Links to an external site.)

For our discussion this week on the question of moral concern for animals, please answer the following questions:

[1] What specifically is wrong with the killing and subsequent disposition of Marius the giraffe at the Copenhagen zoo? What is the purpose of a zoo and doesn’t the reason for and manner of this giraffe’s killing serve that purpose? What moral justification would you give for the existence and use of modern zoos? Explain.

[2] What is your view on the moral concerns of the philosopher and animal rights advocate Peter Singer who accuses much of our modern world of what he calls speciesism which, like racism and sexism and classism, is a skewed and deluded sense of moral superiority? And whether you agree or disagree with Singer, please explain why cruelty to animals is wrong from your viewpoint. And why does it only apply to some animals in terms of the law in this country? (If you use a quote then give the reference with quotation marks and no more than 40 words.)