Let's Start Blaming the Zoos

By: Megan Dale, University Student

He wanted to swim with the gorilla.

A wish which sparked terror, death and outrage. 4 year old Isaiah attempted to turn his wish into a reality by climbing into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati zoo, a move which led zoo workers to shoot Harambe, the 17 year old silverback. The outrage that followed saw the projection of anger towards the parents and sympathy towards the gorilla; but why now? Why did it take the death of an animal for us to deem it unfair for them? Harambe’s life was unfair for the entirety he lived in a zoo.

Ultimately, we all make mistakes. How many times do you think your parents turned around to find you had vanished in the minute that their back had been turned, and spent the next 20 minutes frantically searching Tesco to find you preoccupied with the television display? Would that be classed as negligence? These parents were unlucky; unlucky that it was a gorilla pen that lured their son rather than one of the new wide screen TVs on display. Yes, they should have recognised the environment they were in and kept a closer eye on their son, but they didn’t, and we should put ourselves in their shoes for a moment. The recorded 911 call hears the mother frantically describing the gorilla dragging her son around. A specialist argued that the gorilla was showing protective and non-threatening behaviour towards the child, but how could anyone be sure? Footage illustrates Harambe wrapping his arms around the child and seemingly holding his hands briefly, but amidst the screams and the panic, rational thinking is hard, often impossible. In this situation any parent would want their child out as quickly as possible, whatever the cost. These parents did not want the gorilla to be shot any more than the rest of us, but why would they put their child’s life at risk for the sake of a gorilla?

The crux of this event is that nobody could predict the gorilla’s actions, and if we do not understand the gorilla, how do we know his preferred environment? How do we know what he likes to eat? How do we know the climate he enjoys? How do we know he is content living in a glass case, bearing the stares of the public? Stop pointing the finger at the parents, or the child, or the zoo-keepers forced to act in the heat of the moment- blame zoos, and our society that deems these enclosures acceptable. Harambe, just like the rest of the animals stuck in zoos, should be in his natural habitat. Let them make up their own mind what they want to eat and how they want to live.

To those who shout and object to the closure of zoos; to those who put forward the tourism argument, and the economic benefits; to those who consider them a safe form of education and a prevention of extinction- we need to put these feeble justifications to bed. Zoos may be one form of protection from hunters in the wild, and perhaps they do give the economy a boost in regards to tourism, but you do not have to be a radical animal rights activist to know that they are not morally correct. Just because cages have been replaced with glass, and enclosures have doubled in size, does not make them a better alternative than an animal’s natural habitat. The proof is in the abnormally behaving animal, overweight and fed anti-depressants.

If your interest lies in the protection of animals, give your money to animal sanctuaries or reserves, whose main purpose is the welfare of animals rather than the response of the public. No one is asking you to give up eggs or milk, but it is time we put an end to this subtle form of animal cruelty. If Costa Rica can shut down its zoos, so can the rest of us. Next time you want to go to the zoo, why not have a picnic in the park instead?
Let's Start Blaming the Zoos Let's Start Blaming the Zoos Reviewed by Student Voices on 22:52 Rating: 5

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