Zoo operators in Switzerland are drawing ire among animal welfare supporters after it was revealed that animals housed at their facilities aren't only being confined to be viewed by guests - they're actually being served on plates in the park's restaurant to be eaten by them as well.
Swiss media outlets are reporting this week that officials overseeing Langenberg Wildlife Park , near Zurich, admit to slaughtering dozens of "surplus" animals - captive deer and boar on exhibit there - to be cooked and sold for human consumption.
"Each year hundreds of piglets and calves are born. For lack of space, they are slaughtered and end up on the plate of the visitors," says park spokesperson Martin Kilchenmann.
According to news site Der Landbote, officials say they killed, butchered and cooked as many as 59 calves and piglets in 2012. While origin of the meat served in the park's restaurant is disclosed on the menu, that information is reportedly written in small print which some visitors might overlook.
"Is this not an April Fool's joke?" one guest is quoted as saying. "I can hardly believe it, this surprised me very much."
Kilchenmann defends the practice as showing visitors the "natural cycle." European animal rights organizations, on the other hand, say that by allowing the deer and boars to overbreed, and serving their "surplus" offspring as food, zoo operators are doing something "reprehensible."
This isn't the first time European zoos have come under fire for what some see as irresponsible breeding practices, which create an overstock of animals that are ultimately killed despite being perfectly healthy.
Earlier this year, following the highly-publicized killing of a young "surplus" giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, the BBC reported that culling excess animals, instead of preventing their conception, is standard procedure for zoos across Europe - with as many as 5,000 young animals being killed every year due to breeding mismanagement.