It’s really difficult to watch the video footage of a gorilla dragging a child through knee-deep water at the Cincinnati zoo. As a mom, it makes me feel like having a heart attack.
An emergency zoo response team shot the gorilla once they arrived on the scene. The response from some? Rage at the child’s mother for her “poor parenting” and at the zoo for killing the 450-pound male gorilla, named Harambe. No, seriously:
Already, there is a petition calling for #JusticeForHarambe over on Change.org that has more than 144,000 signatures at the time of publishing this article. The petition specifically calls for the parents of the 4-year-old boy who fell over the barrier into the exhibit to be held accountable for Harambe’s death.
‘We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life,’ the petition reads. ‘We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation. We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation.’ …
The petition has been up for less than 48 hours, and a Facebook group, also called Justice for Harambe, currently has more than 56,000 members.
In a statement, park director Thane Maynard explained why the response team shot the gorilla instead of tranquilizing him: “tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes and the child was in imminent danger. On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse.” The child’s mother said he suffered a concussion and scrapes from his encounter with the animal, who had not obeyed keepers’ commands to retreat to his cage, as the other gorillas had, when the child fell into his moat. God knows what else could have happened had the gorilla been enraged by a tranquilizer dart or approached by more people.
People Are More Important than Animals
It’s easier to understand why a sizeable number of people could watch those videos and conclude that zookeepers could somehow have fanagled the little boy away from the gorilla without having to kill him if you know that a third of Americans, up from a quarter of Americans in 2008, think animals “should have the same rights as people.” Barna research has also shown that growing numbers of people think animals and humans are morally equivalent.
Well, we’re not. Even though this is slipping away, most Americans still call themselves Christians. That religion teaches that human beings are above animals in value (although Christianity also inverts the conventional understanding of power, so that those who have more are bound to use it to serve and uplift; which in this case means people have a responsibility to use their higher status and abilities to serve and care for all creation) because we, not they, are made in God’s image. Even if you want to go from an evolutionary, might-makes-right perspective, human beings have over many centuries…