Last year, the country broke out in rage when the 17-year-old silverback gorilla, Harambe, was killed. Cincinnati zoo officials were forced to make the difficult decision to kill Harambe after a three-year-old boy crawled into the enclosure and fell into a 12-foot-long moat. Harambe drug the boy through the moat and inadvertently risked ending the boy’s life. The encounter lasted 10 minutes before the decision was made to kill Harambe and save the little boy. This incident obviously shows a severe lack of responsibility of the zoo and a degree of negligence of the parents, but more importantly, it shows the extreme hypocrisy of the American people.
First of all, many people responded to this violent tragedy and parents’ reckless behavior with violent and thoughtless remarks. There were death threats plastered all over social media and people suggesting that the parents should be imprisoned for their negligence. While I do think the loss of Harambe is tragic and that the parents should be reprimanded in some way (possibly a fine or ban from the zoo), suggesting that the parents should be shot point blank or go to prison is too extreme.
Humans are flawed. We all make mistakes and, unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes cause devastating, irreversible consequences. Although the parents exhibited senseless behavior, they do not deserve death for their ignorance. It is illogical to conclude that a gorilla should be spared over an innocent child who had just started forming sentences. As an animal lover and activist myself, I am thrilled to see that so many people care, but we should be careful to not misplace our anger and sadness and to not allow passion to cloud our judgement.
Moreover, a large portion of people were enraged that this beloved creature had to die, but only a small portion of the inflamed bystanders are equally angered by the millions of land animals that are ruthlessly tortured and murdered every day. According to “A Well Fed World,” over nine billion land animals die every year, in the U.S. alone, for meat, dairy and egg consumption. Where is the outrage for these innocent animals? Land animals such as pigs, cows and chickens have proven themselves to be intelligent, compassionate companions, yet the vast majority of people choose to not care about their pain and suffering. Thousands of people shout expletives when Cecil the lion or Harambe the gorilla or elephants in zoos and foreign countries are killed, but choose to continue to inflict pain and death on animals by purchasing and using animal products. I am not attempting to downplay the deaths of Cecil and Harambe and elephants across our planet. Rather, I am trying to highlight the flaws in our thinking. Just because an animal is conventionally thought of as food does not mean that their suffering is non-existent.
Our culture has taught us that furry creatures, like dogs and cats, and beings closely related to our form, like apes, are superior to other animals. We have laws sending dog abusers to prison and, in stark juxtaposition, have laws protecting the disgusting practices of the meat and dairy industry. It is completely legal to grind male chicks alive, castrate piglets with no pain killers, and rape mother cows after separating her from her children. We have turned a blind eye and a numb heart to these malicious acts because they are committed for our pleasure. We have given ourselves the power to say that this animal is meant to be cherished, but this one is meant to be raped, beaten and eaten. If anyone wants to be a crusader for animal rights and scathe the people who cause incidents like the death of Harambe to occur, then they need to open their eyes and realize that as long as they are consuming and using animal products, then they are also complicit with abuse and exploitation.