CNN Endorses Right to Life...For Animals
CNN's Anderson Cooper did little to hide his outrage on his Tuesday program over a zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark killing a giraffe. Cooper confronted the zoo's scientific director and asked, "Doesn't the life of the animal itself have some value, rather than just it being part of your breeding program?" The host later expressed his dismay to Jack Hanna: "What he seems to be saying is that the animal itself doesn't really have any right to live."
Cooper later used language familiar to pro-life activists in defense of the giraffe: "At a certain point, the animals themselves should have some right to actually having a life." [MP3 audio available here; video below] The anchor's pro-animal rights segments came just twenty days after CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin ripped pro-lifers on his now-cancelled 10 pm Eastern program:
JEFFREY TOOBIN: ...This is the logical extension of what the anti-abortion woman – movement wants. They want women to have no control over their own bodies. They want the Texas legislature to decide whether this woman has to carry this baby to term, even though she's dead. It is a repulsive abrogation of women's autonomy. This is an anti-woman law.
The CNN host gave the first hint of his bias on the issue in his lead question to Copenhagen Zoo's scientific director, Bengt Holst: "I've seen reports that other zoos – private philanthropists, even – were willing to step in and make sure that this giraffe wasn't killed. Why not do that? Why kill the giraffe?" When Holst explained that the offers weren't valid ones and that "we don't want to send our animal to places where we don't know what happens to it after we have delivered it," Cooper replied, "What's worse that could happen to an animal, though, than being killed?"
The scientific director retorted, in part, that "the most important thing for us is that an animal has to have a good life as long as it lives – be it short life or long life – but it has to be a good life. I mean, if you send it to a place where you cannot take responsibility for it anymore, you risk it going to what we would call a substandard place." Cooper then asked his "doesn't the life of the animal itself have some value" question, which led to Holst underlining that human society regularly controls various animal populations:
HOLST: It has a value, and that's why we say it has a value as long as it lives. So, it has to have a good life as long as it lives....we human beings are the ones controlling animals' lives all the time. And we do it for our domestic animals; we do it for the animals in the parks; in the forests; on the open land. We do it everywhere.
The CNN anchor later indicated to Hanna that he just couldn't comprehend why the zoo took the course of action that it did:
ANDERSON COOPER: I don't quite understand what – I mean, he seemed adamant that there was no other option basically for this giraffe....They couldn't give to it any other zoo; and even some of the zoos they could give it to – it was a matter of space. It seems like people go to great lengths to – you know, adopt dogs to save them from being killed. It seems like adopting a giraffe for a zoo to – you know, some zoo somewhere would be able to take this giraffe.
Cooper became the most adamant, to use his own term, about his pro-animal rights position towards the end of the segment with Hanna:
COOPER: What he seems to be saying is that the animal itself doesn't really have any right to live; or the animal itself, there's no inherent value in the animal living out its natural life, which just seems odd for – I mean, zoos in the United States are...spending tens of millions of dollars to try to recreate habitats; to try to – you know, give polar bears an existence that is one like the one they would have in the wild. It just seems odd that there's no sense from this guy that the animal itself – the life of the animal actually matters. It's just a product in the breeding program.
HANNA: Right. I like that term you use – 'a product in the breeding program.' Anderson, this is a living creature. It's like I was taught on our farm – my dad – and I try to teach people whether you go to a pet shop or wherever you buy a pet or whatever – you have an obligation to that animal, Anderson. That's a living creature. God put that creature on earth for certain reasons. It teaches responsibility; it teaches love. That's what the zoological world does.
COOPER: In talking to him, I started to think: well, if you're killing 20 to 30 exotic animals a year because they don't fit into your breeding program anymore, it just, sort of, makes you start to question – well, what's the real value of this breeding program if these aren't – if it's not an endangered animal. I mean, I know you – this zoo, you know, wants to keep – keep a stock going and wants to attract people, but at a certain point, the animals themselves should have some right to actually having a life.
HANNA: They sure should, shouldn't they? We're now trying to build places in this country – our country – to take surplus animals where they can live out their regular lives....We're trying teach people what they will never see, Anderson. You and I have seen it. That's why I appreciate what you know about the animal world, because you're one of the few reporters that have gotten out there and understand why it's so important....
COOPER: It just seems odd. I mean, I kind of wonder if this zoo has a poster somewhere that says – you know, enjoy our animals. We are going to kill 20 of them this year, but – you know, enjoy them while they last. No one, I think, knowing that would, kind of, keep going to that zoo. It just seems an odd set of priorities.
To be fair, the CNN anchor did gave a platform to a woman, who decided to let her infant daughter live despite her severe genetic defects, during a June 3, 2009 interview on Anderson Cooper 360:
COOPER: Obviously, other women, other families in that situation make different choices.
COOPER: Do you believe that- that women should have the right to make that choice?
ELDER: When a baby is a fully formed, living baby, I don’t think that, really, we have ever had the choice to- to take a life at that stage. I think that- that’s a -- that’s a fully-formed baby. I mean, I think you had some of the pictures up there, and you saw her. She’s a fully-formed baby. She was born early, by the way. She came out at eight months....
COOPER: Well, I- I appreciate you coming on and talking about this. I know it’s not easy, and I appreciate you writing the e-mail to me and- and that we were able to have you on today. Thank you very much.
ELDER: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thanks. Thanks for your strength.
— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.