Zoo Must Kill Baby Polar Bear, Animal Rights Extremists Argue

Published June 1, 2007

A baby polar bear born in the Berlin Zoo should be euthanized rather than be subjected to the humiliation of being raised as a domestic pet, animal rights activists have argued in recent weeks. Schoolchildren around the world have rallied to the bear’s defense in an unprecedented letter-writing campaign.

The polar bear cub, named Knut by its zookeepers, was born in captivity on December 5. Knut’s mother rejected Knut and his twin brother at birth, resulting in the death of Knut’s brother just four days after birth.

Zookeepers stepped in and rescued Knut, rearing him in an incubator for the next 44 days.

Human Support ‘Unnatural’

Upon introducing Knut to the public on March 26, the Berlin Zoo encountered a shock when it was criticized by animal rights activists. German activist Frank Albrecht told Der Spiegel magazine, “The zoo must kill the bear. Feeding by hand is not species-appropriate but a gross violation of animal protection laws.”

Albrecht was not alone among animal rights activists seeking to have the bear killed. “One should have had the courage to let the bear die,” added Wolfram Graf-Rudolf, head of Germany’s Aachen Zoo, as quoted in the March 19 issue of Der Spiegel.

Zoo Vows Protection

In response to calls for the bear’s death, the Berlin Zoo was inundated with letters from German schoolchildren pleading for the animal to be kept alive.

Andre Schuele, chief veterinarian of the Berlin Zoo, promised no harm would befall Knut. “Polar bears live alone in the wild. I see no logical reason why this bear should be killed,” Schuele said in the March 20 London Daily Mail.

Schuele noted killing Knut makes no sense when animal rights activists are seeking endangered species protection for polar bears in response to the activists’ expectation of catastrophic global warming.

Ulterior Motives

Part of the animosity voiced by animal rights activists appeared to be in response to perceived economic exploitation of the animal. The Berlin Zoo has lost money every year for at least the past nine years, but it now expects an explosion in popularity and revenue due to the rare birth-in-captivity of the cute polar bear cub.

The zoo’s stock price has more than doubled this year.

“This sad call for the blood of a baby polar bear shows what charlatans and hypocrites animal rights extremists are,” said Sterling Burnett, senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis. “They claim to care about animals, but if any animal does not fit their definition of what an animal should be, they have no qualms about killing it.”

“If animal rights zealots really loved animals, they would applaud human assistance to a struggling baby polar bear,” Burnett added. “Their opposition to human intervention shows that they are motivated not by a love of animals, but by a hatred of humans.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.