Harambe, a silverback gorilla, was recently shot to death at the Cincinnati Zoo. The 450-pound ape grabbed a three-year-old boy who tumbled into his enclosure. The unexpected arrival of the child and the screams of the crowd agitated the gorilla. Harambe dragged the boy about in the moat like a tiny rag doll.
Zoo officials determined the child was in grave danger. They concluded that a tranquilizer dart would take too long to act on the gorilla and in the interim might lead to further agitation. They opted to shoot the gorilla to save the child’s life.
Animal lovers and animal rights activists have reacted with outrage. The 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla was a member of an endangered species. He has been made into a tragic martyr. Some Facebook posts have said the bullets aimed at Harambe should have been aimed at the parents whose lapse in watching their child caused the death of an innocent animal. Tens of thousands of people signed a petition demanding “Justice for Harambe.” A tearful vigil was held at Cincinnati Zoo. Mourners left flowers and gifts at the gorilla exhibit. A sign read “Gorillas’ Lives Matter.”
Farther south, people were experiencing their own angst with the animals that shared their habitat. A large alligator was found with a man’s partially eaten body in its mouth in Lakeland, Florida. The nine-foot reptile fled when local law enforcement arrived at the gruesome scene. The beast was later found and captured by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officials. An investigation has been launched to learn the identity of the victim and determine whether he was killed by the alligator or had already been dead and was just used as a convenient snack. Residents of the area were horrified. How could this have happened?
Humans are often confused when it comes to understanding the actions of animals. It is quite common to ascribe human motives and behavior to pets and other creatures. But it’s a false premise, a projection of our own ideas, and has little to do with the workings of other species.
Harambe yanked and dragged the little boy though his pool because he was an anxious animal. The child was an unanticipated presence and the crowd was loud. He was in an unforeseen situation and probably felt threatened. No police psychologist could talk him down. He was, after all, a gorilla.
The alligator was chomping on his human lunch because he was hungry. He certainly was not going to refrain from eating anything he could get in his mouth because of any sense of propriety, good manners, or suitability. He was, after all, an alligator.
Jewish law stipulates that it is a major sin to cause an animal unnecessary harm or suffering. However, Hashem created the world and gave human beings dominion over all other creatures. Yes, animals’ lives matter, but human lives matter more.Shelley Benveniste