Harambe: A Tragedy of Society

Note: My emotions may not have made this my most eloquent post

The story: a four-year old boy fell into the enclosure of a 17-year-old silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. When the gorilla behaved like a gorilla, dragging the boy through the moat of its enclosure, zoo officials shot and killed him. The boy is safe.

I cried when I read this story this morning and watched the video, and I’m still weepy as I write this post. But I am also angry and so tired of this shit. All over the internet people are crying out for #justiceforharambe, and my heart was warmed by this…for about 30 seconds. Then I saw the reasons people are demanding justice…first and foremost, the majority of posts out there call for justice for the gorilla because the boy’s parents are to blame. People are calling for the parents to be held accountable for the death of the animal because they failed to be good parents. Only really bad parents have the kinds of kids that wander away from them; only really shitty parents take their kids to the zoo thinking they will be safe; only terrible fucking parents don’t have their kids on leashes at zoos. Right?

Blaming parents for the death of this animal is only part of what pisses me off, but it’s a huge part of the root of the problem at hand. Some justice-seekers are also claiming that the animal was behaving in a way that suggests he was trying to protect the child, and therefore shouldn’t have been killed. This, to me, should be irrelevant.

Here are the facts of this story: Humans got a bunch of money together and built a zoo, and then they either captured or purchased, from other humans, exotic, wild, and beautiful creatures to keep locked up in their zoo. Other humans packed their families into their cars, stood in line, and paid money to the zoo-owning humans so they could walk around and gawk at the creatures inside, and ooo and awww at their exotic beauty; to be impressed by the very fact of their captivity, and to believe that they are seeing a wild animal in a habitat similar to the one it actually belongs in. A curious and perhaps mischievous four-year-old human climbed one of the enclosures built by the zoo-owning humans and fell into Harambe’s living space – the place he is forced to live, day in and day out, surrounded by walls and cages and clusters of humans gawking, pointing, giggling, and talking, watching and photographing his every move. When the kid fell into Harambe’s living space, Harambe did a bunch of scary things with the kid that came naturally to him, behaving like the silverback gorilla that he is. This was Harambe’s crime – behaving according to his nature while living in captivity. Amid a lot of human screaming, the zoo-owning humans shot Herambe with a rifle from above him, like shooting fish in a barrel, and Harambe is dead. The four-year-old human was returned back to his parents safely. The zoo-owning humans made statements to the press. And now, a whole bunch of uninvolved humans are demanding the child’s parents be made to pay.

Where in all of this is it lost that Harambe didn’t belong in captivity?

Why are we so fucking quick to point a finger at the parents for “letting” this happen to their kid? Why are we not angry that people built the zoo and locked these animals up in the first place? There are people in lines at zoos right now, waiting to pay their ticket, and thinking, “I’m not a bad parent, that won’t happen to my kid.” Why the fuck are you in line??

This didn’t happen because of shitty parenting, or childhood curiosity, or the behaviour of a baby-killing gorilla! The inarguable fact is that this would not have happened – could not have happened – if the zoo did not exist in the first place. Many aspects of this story can be argued, but not this one.

But how will we ever see the animals then, you ask? But my kids want to see them! It’s not fair to take the experience away from others because of one incident! This isn’t the first or the last incident of a human life being endangered by an animal in captivity or of a caged animal’s life being ended by a human.

Humans CREATE the conditions for these incidents to happen.

Please, stop buying tickets to zoos, circuses, aquariums, and the like. Stop filling the bank accounts of other humans who have captured and housed animals for your entertainment and their own financial prosperity.

If you are worried that your child’s life experience will suffer for not seeing these animals in cages, tanks, and jumping through hoops, consider the possibility that your child has empathy, that if your child understood the implications of captivity, maybe they would make a different choice. Taking your child to see these animals, and telling them nothing of the issue of captivity is a lie that you are telling them.

Pull back the curtain, tell them the truth. Let them decide. Or go to a fucking water park.




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