Killing Polar bears – right or wrong?

First off, please look at this cutsie-wootsie video of the ickle wickle polar bearcub.

See him kiss his “foster-father”. See him get his head stuck in a towel. See him wave his paws at the camera. Could anything be swe-e-e-e-eeter?

Whoever is putting these videos together isn’t missing a trick, and Knut is genuinely as cute as a button.

Worryingly though, I can follow the logic of those who say that he should be put down. At the moment he is roughly the size of the Andrex Puppy and because he is younger he is even sweeter. However polar bears are not labradors, and he’ll grow up into one of the world’s largest living carnivores. Now, I’m not sure how wise it is to take actions which will result in half a tonne of poorly socialised and un-castrated carnivore living in captivity. Maybe the Germans are raising Knut as an answer to Trident. These are creatures which will attack a Nuclear Submarine:

Polar bear attacking Nuclear Submarine

No, I do not think it is appropriate to just kill him simply because he’ll end up insane and possibly violent, with Species Identity Disorder (or whatever the term might be), but neither is it appropriate to anthropomorphise him into a cuddly toy. You, I, and the others who think he’s cute aren’t the ones who’ll be taking the risks involved in caring for him and keeping him safe and as sane as possible for the next 40 years. Anthropomorphising polar bears is what led to the situation in the first place: his mother was a circus bear, but she rejected him. Presumably she was worried about how breast-feeding would affect her figure in a tutu. Babe has a lot to answer for.

As a postscript to this, my grandfather was returning to the UK from India some time before the First World War. He was given custody of a bear-cub half-a-tadlet older than Knut here to take it to London Zoo. But how to feed it? In the end, they ordered a bucket of porridge several times a day and dunked the bear in the porridge, took it out and let it lick itself clean. I guess we’ve come on a way in how we treat animals since then… Of course we have.


14 responses to “Killing Polar bears – right or wrong?

  1. Listen to this weeks R4 ‘Now Show’. Mitch Benn does a song about it…only German animal rights people could ask for something to be killed!

  2. How else do you think I found out about it Alfster, Radio4ophile that I am.


  3. To my mind, the most miserable animal in the whole zoo is always the polar bear.
    I don’t think they should be in captivity but, apparently, they are an endangered species so perhaps we need to have some to restock their natural habitat, once we’ve got this planet sorted.

    I am completely in favour of euthanising whoever wrote the bloody song for that film clip. *shudder*

  4. Ah. The song. Do you think it is actually an adult singing in a little-girl voice? She’s suspiciously in time and in tune, if you ask me.


  5. PR for a cutesy polar bear is despicable…well, any sort of PR is, isn’t it? Rejection by his mother isn’t a good enough reason to kill an innocent; you don’t see us killing orphaned human babies, do you? And while I don’t approve of euthanizing an endangered species, any animal in captivity is an unnatural thing. People always say stuff like “oh, they live longer.” Maybe so, but what about quality of life? It’s a touchy subject for which I see no answer.

  6. I feel sorry for the polar bears in the zoos, but I disagree that the most miserable animal is the polar bear. I think that the most miserable animal has got to be the wolf.

    That aside, the whole idea of making wild animals pets because they are so cute when babies is why we have “rescue” establishments all over. Tigers, bears, lions and monkeys are more than just a handful when adult, no matter how cute they are when babies.

  7. I’m not as sweeping in my rejection of PR, Kat. Junior Doctors in the UK badly need a lot of PR right now simply so that the rest of us will continue to have decent healthcare. I just objected to the emotional manipulation of this.

    Personally, I cannot see the sense of considering animals in terms of being innocent or guilty; it makes more sense to me to consider them in terms of being mentally and physically healthy or mentally and physically pressured.

    You are 100% right though – the whole thing is a complex subject full of ethical contradictions.

    Knut’s not a pet, hmh, he’s a zoo animal who was rejected by his mother who is being raised by zoo- er -ologists. Well, zoo-keepers, anyway. I have such enormous issues with seeing animals in terms of their cuteness.

    Thank you both for taking the time to comment.


  8. “I have such enormous issues with seeing animals in terms of their cuteness. ”

    *Mustn’t* start on fox-hunting. *Mustn’t* start on fox-hunting.

    Anyway. Depends what the purpose of a zoo is. Is it for people to look at creatures they’d never normally see, is it for breeding animals to boost their wild populations, is it a more socially-acceptable form of circus?

    If it’s the latter or the former, then go ahead, raise 80 stone of bear in close quarters. If, however, we think zoos have a nobler function, then it’s hard to see the justification for raising it.

  9. Oh go on Kerr. Start of fox-hunting… you know you want to.


    PS – “Why are we doing this?” is the fundamental question to ask about so many of our institutions. Why do we imprision people – is it to punish them – is it in the hope of offering them education and the chance to reform – is it to protect society from them? The way you structure your prison service depends entirely on the answer to that one. Same with Zoos.

    Thanks for commenting. 😀

  10. Okay.

    My opinion is this: The fox-hunting debate comes down to exactly the same thing as the ‘what to do with the cute bear’ debate: What’s it *for*? I personally believe that the reason there was so much hate for fox hunting was because the two sides had a fundementally different opinion of what fox hunting was for. One side sees it as a primarily social activity for the osrt of people they don’t like, witha side order of snobbery and teeny little bit of pest control in the form of an excuse.

    One side saw a neccessary pest-control activity with a side order of happening to be a joll good day out.

    They two sides are approaching the issues from such different angles that they’re never going to find a common ground, beucase there’s no meeting point on lines when one starts from ‘You just enjoy that and it’s horrible so I want it banned’ and the other starts from ‘This is a neccessary activity and you just don’t understand it and anyway it’s not thefoxes you care about it’s poking us in the eye’.

  11. That is, without exception, the most succinct description I have ever come across of the whole hunting debate and why it is so futile.

    Thank you for posting it.


  12. Hey, you’re welcome. And I even *think* I managed not make my own views on the matter too bleeding obvious 😉

    Shame my ability to type appears to have been on the blink.

  13. I just came across this post today. Has there been any resolution with the bear cub? I would assume that he’s much, much bigger by now….

  14. i hate seeing animal getting killed just for a sport witch means people who do that are “hating” on sweet little animals.

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