As It Happens

Danish zoo plans to dissect a lion in front of children

In a few days, children will gather around a dead lion at a zoo in Odense, Denmark, and watch while scientists dissect it. People outside of the country have reacted angrily to the prospect.
The Odense Zoo in Denmark will publicly dissect a lioness on Thursday, October 15th. (Facebook)

EDITOR'S NOTE (GRAPHIC WARNING): There is an image of zookeepers dissecting a lion below, as well as an image of a giraffe dissection. If you do not wish to see these photos, please do not scroll down.

Tomorrow, children will gather around a dead lion at a zoo in Denmark and watch while scientists dissect it.

People outside of the country have reacted angrily to the prospect, much as they did last year when a zoo in Copenhagen publicly dissected a giraffe.

[The children] can ask, 'Can I see the heart of the lion?' or 'Could you cut out the eye of the lion?' . . . They are not horrified by it at all.- Nina Collatz Christensen, head biologist, Odense Zoo

But the zoo in Odense is going ahead with their dissection. It's a traditional event held during school breaks so children can watch.

"The children look inside an animal and learn about it," Nina Collatz Christensen, the zoo's head biologist, tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

"They are asking 'Why is the lion dead?' and 'Did it have a name?' or they can ask, 'Can I see the heart of the lion?' or 'Could you cut out the eye of the lion?'"

The Odense Zoo has been dissecting lions to educate the public for about 20 years. (Facebook)

The zoo places no age limit on who can attend. And, while some people outside of Denmark have been calling for the zoo to be shut down over the public dissection, Collatz Christensen says the children are not at all disturbed by it.

"It smells a little, well, not so nice and maybe there's a lot of blood," she said. "But they keep on looking, keep on asking, so they are not horrified by it at all."

The lion, a healthy year-old female, was euthanized by the zoo nine months ago. Collatz Christensen says the lion was killed to avoid inbreeding. The zoo tried to find a place for her at another zoo, but failed.

In this Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 file photo, children watch as Marius, a male giraffe, is dissected at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark. (Rasmus Flindt Pedersen/Polfoto via The Associated Press)

She says that while some foreigners have been angered by the planned dissection, most Danes are supportive.

"I think it's a very Scandanavian thing," she says. "It's very normal in Sweden as well, but in Holland and England they cannot do it.

"I don't know why it is in Denmark like this, if we are true Vikings."

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