Kill That Polar Bear Cub, For the Sake of Animal Welfare:

Der Spiegel reports:

Animal rights activists, as SPIEGEL reported Monday, aren't so enthralled with the polar bear baby [being raised in a Berlin zoo]. They are concerned that Knut, who is being raised by human hand after his mother rejected him, is in danger of losing touch with the bear necessities. Some would like to see him dead.

"Raising him by hand is not appropriate to the species but rather a blatant violation of animal welfare laws," animal rights activist Frank Albrecht told the mass circulation newspaper Bild, whose front page headline Monday read "Will Sweet Knut Be Killed by Injection?"

Berlin Zoo is allowing Knut to be raised in such a way that the bear will have a behavioral disorder for the rest of his life, Albrecht believes. "In actual fact, the zoo needs to kill the bear cub," he adds.

He's not alone. Wolfram Graf-Rudolf, director of the Aachen Zoo, told the newspaper, "I don't consider it appropriate for the species that the little polar bear is being raised on a bottle." The animal will be fixated on his keeper and not be a "real" polar bear, he says. However he feels it is now too late to put Knut out of his supposed misery. "The mistake has been made. One should have had the courage to put him to sleep much earlier."

The story contains some editorializing, and there's always a risk that the people being quoted are being misquoted or quoted out of context. Still, to my knowledge Der Spiegel is a fairly reputable source, so I thought I'd pass this along; and the quote from a zoo director is especially troublesome -- for all I know, Albrecht is some lone extremist, but when a zoo director says it, that's harder to dismiss. What seems like the German original is here, in case you want to read it. Thanks to Robert Bidinotto for the pointer.

The CNN article I saw was pretty balanced and quoted other animal rights activists pointing out how ridiculous it is to suggest killing the bear.

Somewhat helping the bear's case might be the fact that this just might be the cutest creature on the face of the earth.
3.19.2007 7:20pm
Dave N (mail):
Albrecht's views seem to have a familiar ring To paraphrase:

"We must destroy the bear in order to save it."
3.19.2007 7:34pm
What is a "real" polar bear? Should we consult Plato? I don't think I could tell you what a "real" polar bear is, though I have a clue as to what a "real" moron may be like.
3.19.2007 7:51pm
Shangui (mail):
Perhaps we should all go back to hunting and gathering so that we can be more like "real" humans were for much of our history. Of course we'd also be more likely to be eaten by bears...
3.19.2007 8:08pm
I think the phrase they're looking for is "bear unworthy of life."
3.19.2007 8:14pm
Anonymo the Anonymous:
Would this story be half as funny if it weren't about Germans? "Zee zoo must kill zee bear! Achtung!"
3.19.2007 8:20pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
If we started putting to death all of the *humans* who are expected to grow up to have life-long behavioral problems, particularly due to abandonment issues, we wouldn't have much of a country left; or a human race, for that matter.
3.19.2007 8:23pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Also, are they looking for a final solution to the polar bear problem?

/I'm so sorry.
3.19.2007 8:25pm
BobNSF (mail):
Obviously the bear should be kept alive and displayed until it's too old or too sick to amuse us. Then it should be shipped to one of those "hunting" estates -- where so many retired zoo and circus animals end up -- and be shot to death in a mock "safari" to further amuse us.

Yes, I'm being sarcastic. There is a real debate on the purpose of zoos. It's not a stupid debate. It's not "those wacky liberals at it again". The good thing about the open discussion is that the options are clear and, in this case, a sensible and humane solution is being followed (though I suspect it has more to do with the rarity of the species involved than any overriding principle applicable to all individuals animals in zoos). Now, if only we could have the same open discussion of canned hunts and animal sanctuaries in this country. (Not to mention lab animals, circus animals, puppy mills, industrial farming, etc., etc., etc.)
3.19.2007 8:28pm
Hattio (mail):
All those who think this bear is going to bond irrevocably to humans, should volunteer to continue feeding it by hand in another two or three years. I bet they will be convinced really quick that the bear's instincts are fully capable of influencing it's behavior.

Anyone remember Binky?
3.19.2007 8:29pm
Hey Binky never harmed anyone who took care of him, he never even harmed a fellow Alaskan, only tourists, and it was self defense too.
3.19.2007 9:02pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
According to Wikipedia, the tourists had the last laugh:

"Electrified fences and a motion detector were put in place to protect Binky and his cage-mate Nuka from further intrusions by tourists.Binky and Nuka died in 1995 of an infection transmitted to them by food thrown by tourists."
3.19.2007 9:04pm
dwlawson (mail) (www):
We need to arm the bear to protect its life from these 'animal rights' activists. Perfectly legal given our Second Amendment right to keep and arm bears.

Seriously though, as an animal lover, I despise so-called 'animal rights' activists. To me, they are simply animal murderers. I was shocked when the PETA murderers got off after the callous murders they committed.

I keep exotic pets and have taken to the extreme of simply not telling people I don't trust about them. They've been after exotics for years now with the all too familiar "nobody needs those types of pets" and promising they won't come after dogs and cats. I doubt that. Their unstated agenda is to see every domesticated animal dead.

The parallel between the exotic pet bans and gun bans struck me the other day, as I attended a rally in Springfield, IL against gun bans. I had the feeling, "this is so familiar."
3.19.2007 9:36pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
Vicki Hearne covered all this in a Harpers essay long ago, which I believe is still available via the wayback machine ... here What's Wrong with Animal Rights
3.19.2007 10:03pm
Hattio (mail):
That's only because tourists were the ones dumb enough to crawl into her cage. NOT that I'm claiming all Alaskans are brainy, but you generally get over the notion that bears are "cute" very young.
3.19.2007 10:14pm
triticale (mail) (www):
If they do decide to execute the polar bear for the crime of inauthenticity, can I buy the hide? I'd love to have a polar bear fur coat, and it would be a shame to waste such a resource.
3.19.2007 10:21pm
Russ (mail):
I hope these activists never try to look out for MY welfare.
3.19.2007 10:28pm
Marc in Eugene (mail) (www):
Don't forget this, from last month in Belgium: "Karen loved animals. Unfortunately the cheetahs betrayed her trust."

3.19.2007 10:28pm
Marc in Eugene (mail) (www):
Sorry about the link., from the International Herald Tribune.
3.19.2007 10:32pm
Californio (mail):
Aren't Polar Bears very aggressive hunters? Very adept at tracking and killing seals and other prey? Perhaps the activists could better serve the bears by offering themselves up as live bait to be charged, mauled and killed. This would have the added bonus of allowing on-lookers the educational experience of watching nature in action.
P.S. when I think "polar bear" my immediate word association is "Weatherby .458"

P.P.S. Sorry, but aren't we long past listening to Germans telling us who, or what, does ,or does not, deserve to live?
3.19.2007 11:37pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
So, they're saying he's not "Authentically White"?
3.19.2007 11:44pm
Dick Schweitzer (mail):
There are no "Animal Rights." If you think so watch animals with one another, like momma bear. There are only the obligations of humans in their relationships with animals. Those obligations are individual, to be met as each individual decides - I think that may have some link with morality (as a recent Pope inferred).
3.19.2007 11:44pm
As one who reads the Spiegel online daily and has read the print edition off and on for a long time, it appears to me that the publication's views generally are and always have been far to the left of center. In addition, much of it increasingly reads like a political tabloid.
In my opinion, they don't deserve their repectability.
Examples furnished on request.
3.20.2007 1:49am
Cornellian (mail):
Oh my God, I just saw a picture of that little baby polar bear and his cuteness rating is totally off the scale. I can guarantee that pitchfork wielding mobs will descend on anyone who lays a finger on him. Even more amazingly, CNN is reporting that Annie Leibovitz is taking photographs of "Knut" (nicknamed Cute Knut by the locals). If you thought he looked cute just in those ordinary CNN photos (and does he ever), he's really going to knock 'em dead in the AL photos.
3.20.2007 4:10am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Even if he is bonded to humans and can't be reintroduced to the wild he still may be valuable to preserve genetic diversity for captive breeding programs. Killing him because he bonded to humans is pretty kooky, IMO.
3.20.2007 8:15am
Moonage Webdream (mail) (www):
I really think we need to put the activists in their natural environment and embrace the polar bears. I would suggest killing them off to save the polar bears, but that just sounds kinda harsh and loonie.
3.20.2007 10:15am
Positroll (mail):
In fact, nobody ever really demanded for the cub to be killed. The story was mostly made up by the tabloid BILD which misquoted the animal rights activist Albrecht and put his remarks out of context (he was basically trying to protest against the killing of the baby sloth by making an analogy to this case, saying that the reasoning used to kill the baby sloth would require killing the polar bear cub too). Many newspapers - including Der Spiegel - fell for BILD's version.
(in German, but with lots of cute pics ...)
3.20.2007 10:15am
ed o:
perhaps it could be called abortion and his mother could issue a press release indicating she was exercising her right to choose?
3.20.2007 10:25am
Cornellian (mail):
There are no "Animal Rights." If you think so watch animals with one another, like momma bear. There are only the obligations of humans in their relationships with animals. Those obligations are individual, to be met as each individual decides - I think that may have some link with morality (as a recent Pope inferred).

And yet if someday we encountered an animal that was entirely sentient, capable of language at least on a limited basis etc. we might well have to conclude that such a being has "rights." On that basis, a few particularly intelligent, individual higher primates over the years at least come close to that status.

It is an interesting philosophical issue why such beings do not have rights while all humans have rights, even those few humans who lack even that limited mental capacity.
3.20.2007 12:09pm
ed o:
maybe Martina Navratilova(sic) could comment-didn't she opine on the animal rights issue of allowing gay sheep to be gay recently? why doesn't this little cub have the right to be human if that is what it wants?
3.20.2007 2:00pm
carleyjohnson (mail):
Albrecht is an idiot! How could you be an animal activist and want to kill an animal? It's rediculous to say that the polar bear would be better off dead. It is like saying that every animal in every zoo, shelter, and rescue centers should all be euthanized. Maybe he should left out in the wild with nothing and no one then maybe he will change his mind!
3.20.2007 6:40pm
Dick Schweitzer (mail):

Thank you so much for picking up that thread. It is a broad philosophical (and political)issue, of which I have been engaged in study for over 25 years, and hope to essay before shuffling off, since I am probably in the last decade of life.

You are correct, but, there are no "rights." What we observe as "rights" are really results of obligations, or more specifically the meeting of obligations. Some obligations are positive, others are negative obligations, the "thou shall nots..", on which we rest our obligations not to interfere with anothers freedom of worship, nor do we do so through the mechanisms of our governments, etc.

This concern began with me many years before in reviewing "entitlements" in modern cultures (related to a study of the history of Socialism). Each obviously called for an obligation of someone else to provide the entitlement. Nothing new there, of course. But, on whom do the obligations fall (if not voluntarily assumed as a commitments); and why fall there?

This led back to how the idea of obligations is linked to the sense of oughtness (the deontic), and what are the functions of obligations, how their sense arises in individuals, not just with respect to human interactions, but in respect to all physical surroundings, even the lone being in a wilderness (e.g.., Native American concepts).

Thus, I was moved by "There is no morality without choice."

That would not be a bad credo for a libertarian coalition.
3.20.2007 7:00pm
kiki2021 (mail):
Animal activists are so ass backwards! Most animal lovers want to do everything they can to save animals yet these people that call themselves activist for animals want to put them to death?!?! You know whats funny...they want to put the cub down but they would throw red paint on the person that made a damn article of clothing from his fur!!!! I hate stupid people!
3.20.2007 8:06pm
Marisa Katnic' (mail):
I can't even comprehend the disgust I feel by reading that someone like Frank Albrecht wanting to euthanize an endangered animal simply on the basis of the mother abandoning it. The animal is in a zoo and, therefore, should be kept ongoing as long as he is healthy, vibrant and full of life.
3.20.2007 8:34pm
Colin (mail):
I hate stupid people!

Perhaps you should read Positroll's comment, above. (Assuming, of course, that Positroll isn't the usual sort of troll.)
3.20.2007 9:03pm
Lauren (mail):
Am I missing something, or is it not absurd to murder an infant polar bear that is part of an endangered species simply because his mother abandoned him and he has been raised on the bottle? As long he is living in a zoo under loving and caring human supervision, why does he even need to worry about being a "real" polar bear (what exactly is a "real" polar bear, by the way)? I hope the little man pulls through-espcially since he might quite possibly be THE cutest thing ever
3.20.2007 10:22pm
Lauren (mail):
By the way, animal/human relationships aren't exactly unheard of. You would think these so-called "animal rights activists" would've read Call of the Wild. According to their logic, Buck should've drowned in the river instead of being saved by a human. Sheesh.
3.20.2007 10:24pm
A polar bear kept alive by artificial nutrition and hydration? How barbaric!

We wouldn't want a human kept alive that way, would we?

I honestly don't see the difference. If one has the idea that a beings shouldn't be kept alive by "unnatural" means, and one believes being "unnatural" is worse than death, this is the outcome. If humans are better off dead than being kept alive by "unnatural" means, why is there a problem making the same argument for polar bears? I find myself truly at a loss -- I honestly don't see how a person could see a problem with it. The rhetoric on this column sounds like straightforward pro-life rhetoric. I agree with it, but what I don't understand is why it's not also a good argument for humans. If life, even if artificially lived, has intrinsic value for polar bears, why not humans? Why didn't we see the same you-can't-be-serious you-gotta-be-kidding get-real attitude about, say, the views of Terri Schiavo's husband? What makes the life of a polar bear more valuable?
3.21.2007 2:10am
S A GOULD (mail):
It's all been said. Just tell me where the best "Save Knut" site is. Yes, I'm sure no one would DARE (now) to harm a hair of his furry head, but as he grows, perhaps he'll need a bigger pool or toys or... whatever. Sign me up!
3.21.2007 2:12pm
It's not true:
3.21.2007 4:48pm
maya (mail):
ofcourse the bear shouldnt be killed! this are endangerd species.. even if a whole nation off polar bears are rised in captivity their offspring could be gradualy brought back to their natural habitat(given that polars wouldnt melt.. )
3.22.2007 5:15am
markm (mail):

All those who think this bear is going to bond irrevocably to humans, should volunteer to continue feeding it by hand in another two or three years.

The danger in doing this isn't the bear reverting to it's predatory instincts where humans are concerned, but rather that the bear will start treating humans like bears treat each other. We aren't built strong enough to survive a polar bear's idea of friendly wrestling...

I just hope that there's no prospect of releasing this bear into the wild. It's not just that it might cuddle some hapless human to death, but that it's got the idea that humans owe it free handouts, and might get annoyed when someone doesn't cooperate. But as a zoo animal, there's no problem. The keepers know what they're dealing with, and I'd think that a wild-caught bear would be far more dangerous.

Finally, in all probability the reason it's mother abandoned it is either that the zoo environment has distorted her instincts and mothering skills, or that she was born in a zoo and never learned what to do with a baby.
3.22.2007 4:46pm