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Deer Today, Meat Tomorrow

Article based on news reports (nda)July 19, 2007

It all started when an eagle-eyed employee noticed declining animal stocks at Erfurt Zoo. It ended with a scandal, sackings and a criminal investigation into an illegal meat operation.

Explain this one to the kidsImage: Bilderbox

Some zoos aren't as lucky as the one in Berlin. Most don't have superstar polar bear cubs and the potential to exploit cuteness through marketing deals and promotions which would make even David Beckham seem like a media-shy hermit with no business sense.

There are no tie-ins, no plush toys flying off the shelves, no hordes of expectant children and insatiable paparazzi stampeding through the turnstiles.

For those zoos lacking star-quality, life is bleak. The future is under-funded and the staff and animals suffer accordingly.

However, some animals -- like those at Erfurt Zoo -- suffer more than others. For these poor creatures, their suffering was not caused by a reduction of enclosure space due to a budget cut or an enforced diet due to spiraling feed costs. No, it came courtesy of those unscrupulous members of staff who, instead of looking after the beasts, were killing them and shipping their carcasses out the back door as meat.

While other establishments were relying on merchandise to boost income, the evil workers at Erfurt were lining their own pockets with a grisly sideline in exotic animal flesh.

Bambi steaks could be tip of meat iceberg

More buck for your buck: Deer meat proved very popularImage: AP

Apparently, the staff responsible had been turning petting zoo deer into venison as part of a clandestine business for a number of years. Now it is feared that Bambi steaks will turn out to be just one specialty on the macabre menu.

"We are worried this is only the tip of the iceberg," said Wolfgang Apel, president of the German Animal Protection League, who also called for a thorough review of controls at the zoo and at all other institutions with animals in the eastern state of Thuringia.

The secret meat trade was revealed after an anonymous zoo employee noticed that the number of animals was declining. "It was high time something was done about it," the whistleblower said, as quoted in a report in Die Zeit newspaper.

After hearing of the scandal, Erfurt's mayor filed charges against workers at the zoo and fired the zoo's director. "The case is now being handled by state prosecutors," said a spokeswoman for the mayor's office in a statement to the press, declining to give further details.