The Copenhagen Zoo is facing more than a little wrath today after it put down a healthy young male giraffe with a bolt pistol and fed its meat to zoo carnivores—all over concerns about inbreeding, reports the AP. Two-year-old Marius was considered "surplus," reports the BBC, because he was genetically similar—yet inferior—to many giraffes already within the breeding program of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The over-the-top part? Zoo workers then dissected Marius in front of a crowd that included many children, then fed him to lions. (There are photos in the gallery, but be warned that they are graphic.) A zoo rep stands by the animal's destruction, noting that it's responsible practice. "Giraffes today breed very well, and when they do you have to choose and make sure the ones you keep are the ones with the best genes," he says, adding that the zoo puts down some 20 to 30 animals per year.
Animal rights activists are outraged, and an online petition to save Marius garnered some 20,000 signatures; zoos including the UK's Yorkshire Wildlife Park offered to take in Marius. "It just shows that the zoo is in fact not the ethical institution that it wants to portray itself as being, because here you have a waste product—that being Marius," says one activist. "I can't believe it," adds the director of a Netherlands wildlife park. "We offered to save his life. Zoos need to change the way they do business."