In her excellent Guest Editorial on the subject of the Cincinnati Zoo incident (Page 38 of the print issue), Kirstie Pike takes on a number of the big issues surrounding the shooting of a Silverback gorilla after a 3-year-old boy found his way into the creature’s enclosure in late May.
Pike discusses the uproar and finger-pointing that followed the incident, particularly the vilification of the child’s parents, especially his mother, and the “mob” mentality that put the life of the gorilla, Harambe, on the same moral plane as that of the child.
I asked Kirstie to share the editorial with W&G readers because it was such a sensible response to the tragedy.
What struck me most as the incident was reported and then discussed ad nauseam in the media, was how far away from reality most people have moved in the last 25 years.
We have anthropomorphized animals so much in the last several generations that people talking about them as if they were equal to humans is not dismissed out of hand.
I don’t hunt myself (I usually say it’s because the hours are too punishing), but I have never had a problem with other people doing so. I realize that there are reasonable people who can make compelling arguments against hunting, just as I think you could probably make a reasoned argument against the existence of zoos in this day and age. We live in an age in which no one bats an eye at people’s varied lifestyles, including veganism, and that, by and large, is a good thing for society in general.
But when we forget basic principles, or torture common sense to fit a fantasy narrative that the child’s welfare was equal to, or lesser, than that of the gorilla, we have gone too far.
The other thing that struck me during the media firestorm involving this case is how few people understand the realities of a situation like this.
From the ridiculous “let nature take its course and maybe both animal and child will be fine” conjecture to the equally ludicrous “why didn’t they just shoot the gorilla with a tranquilizer dart” speculation, the lack of fundamental understanding of how incidents like this work and what the real outcome of dangerous situations is has reached peak absurdism.
Just as there is always similar second guessing around police shootings, the la-ti-da fantasy that you can defuse any situation peacefully, equitably and without serious violence has become the norm.
That is not to say that incidents should not be reviewed. Of course they should be dissected after the fact—but by professionals who have the training and experience to render judgement. And, in most cases, when the professionals have done their jobs and made public their findings, there should be general acceptance of their conclusions.
Most of the professionals in the zoo incident said that the tranquilizer option was not viable, because there were too many variables—would such a move just enflame the gorilla? Would a tranquilizer work fast enough? Sensible people realize that while the outcome was unhappy, it was the only option available in the circumstances.
Gunowners have heard people say all too frequently in recent years things like “why didn’t they just shoot the gun out of his hands?” Or “why couldn’t the police just shoot him in the knee?” And “why were so many shots fired?”
These types of questions after a shooting incident make clear that the general public relies much too much on the fantasy worlds of television, movies and video games, where real world consequences are never in play and where everyone (or at least the good guys) are possessed of superhuman skills that defy what professionals are taught, and in some cases, the laws of physics as well.
Incidents such as the Cincinnati zoo should be teaching moments for everyone and not just “made for television” events that are exacerbated by everyone’s two cents on social media.