A picture of a male gorilla.

The Death of Harambe

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Recently the internet is filled with emotional reaction to the events in the Cincinnati Zoo, where a 17 year old silverback male gorilla named Harambe — a member of an endangered species — has been shot dead because he might have posed danger to a human child who climbed into his enclosure.

No attempt has been made to retrieve the child by some other means. Even tranquilizing the gorilla was deemed to be too dangerous to the child — even thought it certainly would have been a lot safer for the gorilla. Thus he has never had a chance, he was pretty much doomed from the moment the child climbed into his enclosure.

I usually try to resist the urge to say anything on such an emotion filled topic, but perhaps I can think aloud a bit. So here are some thoughts.

For me the question isn’t what the gorilla’s intentions were — we normally don’t execute people because they may commit a crime, so why do we even consider that as an argument when talking about a gorilla — who certainly has less mental capacity to be considered criminally responsible than a human — yet he was sentenced to death and executed all in a couple of minutes because of something he might do.

We humans are bloody cowards and we would kill anybody or anything who looks dangerous first, and ask questions later. If that someone is another human, laws protect him from such actions — even if he has proven to be a danger to society. But non-human animals have no rights in most countries, they have no lawyers, so we can kill them as we please.

When there is an element of danger to humans usually we do not even question if it is right to kill a non-human animal because we are also products of evolution. Protecting our own kind takes precedence over anything else. Species who did not behave that way disappeared to make room for those who did.

I can live with that, what I can’t live with is the human arrogance to pretend that we have morals and we are better than other animals, when in fact we behave like any other wild animal or worse. Wild animals have the excuse that they are stupid and ignorant, while we humans are merely pompous and cruel. When it comes to respecting other species we are certainly one of the worst. Because of our technology we pose significantly more danger to other animals than they can ever pose to us. We destroy their natural habitat to make room for the ever increasing human population or the crops needed by them. Entire species of animals simply disappear because their former habitat is converted to cities and farmland so the pest invasive species called humans can infest even more territory.

We claim to preserve species in zoos, when in fact they are just displayed for profit so that idiots can stare at them and make fun of them. Apparently they are not even safe in their artificial habitat. Just think about it, if someone has invaded your home and you were shot to protect the intruder that would certainly be regarded as unjustifiable. But that was exactly what happened to this poor gorilla.

Since we humans make the laws, non-human animals have no rights. Any human is considered to be infinitely more valuable than any animal. As I said, it is no surprise, but if we are unwilling to consider the rights of a gorilla, we should at the very least consider the rights of future human generations. Do we have the right to deprive them of living in a world where the animals endangered today still exist? People whine endlessly about environmental pollution, global warming and the like, but species extinction is just as bad.

On the long run the Earth will be a very boring place populated by plastic trees and humans living on top of other humans in concrete boxes.

Currently there are over a hundred thousand gorillas in existence, so perhaps the death of one captive individual is not the end of the world — but the flip side is also true, the potential death or injury of one human child would hardly mean the end of mankind. Each and every day thousands of humans die in the hands of other humans, yet we abhor the notion of risking that one may die in order to save, or let live a mere animal.

What if the animal in question was the last male or female of its kind? What if killing it would truly be tantamount to species extinction?

Would we humans still use the argument that even a single human life is infinitely more valuable than the future of an entire species? We still live in a world where humans readily take human lives, often casually, yet allowing an animal to do so is unthinkable?

If so, we truly have no respect for other species, or for future generations of humans.

I live in a country where people are allowed to actually kill and eat possibly sentient creatures, just because it is “tradition” — i.e. their ancestors always did that.

So not just human life, but idiotic cultural phenomena can trump the rights of other species.

Sometimes one wonders that when the Tralfamadorians invade and display us all in zoos would it not be what we deserve?

After all, we are so sure that might makes it right.

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Last updated: June 7, 2016

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