In recent years, a number of lion cubs have been born at Borås Zoo to the delight of locals and journalists alike. In the zoo, lions seem to enjoy immense popularity, with lion masks and lion toys being sold at the souvenir shop, and the newborn cubs being used in public campaigns. However, the majority of the cubs end up being euthanized, despite being sound as a bell.
Of the thirteen lion cubs born in three litters at Borås Zoo since 2012, only two are alive today. Two died a natural death, whereas the rest were culled as "surplus animals." An entire litter of four lions from March 2012 was subsequently killed in the fall of 2013.
"It is impossible to define a surplus animal, but it is usually an animal that does not fit into a collection for one reason or another," Borås Zoo CEO Bo Kjellson told national broadcaster SVT, stressing that this was part of proper breeding work.
Culling surplus animals is hardly a unique practice, as most Swedish zoos operate in this way, the Swedish Zoo Association reported. The reasons for which an animal may be written off as surplus may include overrepresentation in the breeding program, genetic inferiority and social incompatibility. In 2016, four lions were born at Borås Zoo. Earlier this week, two of them were shipped to England, whereas the other two were killed due to mounting aggression.
"So disgusting that the lion mother has to give birth to kids as a publicity stunt. About time for people to show that it is deceitful and wrong to do so in the name of money. Hope you get much fewer visitors thanks to this," user Susanne Fredlund wrote in SVT's comment section.
Helena Pedersen, a researcher in animal studies at the University of Gothenburg, called the practice of utilizing the newborn cubs for profit only to get rid of them at a later stage "cynical."
Forskare: Cyniskt och oetiskt https://t.co/nBI5IBQxWW via @svtnyheter "– Det här med bevarandeuppdraget är en bild som har konstruerats i efterhand för att bemöta kritik" #BoråsDjurpark Borås Djurpark #Borås #Djurpark @jordbruksverket #jordbruksverket @Naturvardsverk #djurensratt— Ylva Matrisse (@YlvaMatrisse) January 10, 2018
Veterinarian Johan Beck-Friis agreed that breeding animal kids to get magnets during the tourist season was "ethically doubtful." At the same time, he argued there was no legal problem whatsoever with killing animals.
"We kill thousands of animals every day at slaughterhouses for those who eat meat products," Johan Beck-Friis told SVT.
Over the past four years, Borås Zoo culled 286 animals, of which 163 were perfectly healthy. Furthermore, 128 didn't even become one year old.
At almost 60 years old, Borås Zoo gets approximately 250,000 visitors a year, representing the focal point of the city's tourist industry. The business's economic impact as a result of tourism is estimated to be at least SEK 40 million (5 million).
The lion is considered a vulnerable species that is critically endangered in several places. Maintaining a viable strain of lion is important to ensure the survival of the species.