If there’s one thing the internet’s really good for it’s highlighting the human species at its worst. The lack of coherent thought, sanity, or rationalization, abundant in our fellows is difficult to condone when thrust at us through the pages of Facebook or Twitter, and picked up by the gutter press to spread the gospels of hatred, venom, and self-righteousness.
The latest episode of humanity’s lack of love for its fellow beings has emerged in the furore whipped up by the sad, though necessary, killing of Harambe the gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo recently.
As an animal welfare inspector in the U.K. for fifteen years, working for the largest animal welfare charity in the world, the writer would dare anyone to accuse him of lack of compassion towards those creatures who share this planet with us. If we fail to extend that compassion to our own kind, and restrict our emotions to those classed as “poor dumb creatures” then we risk our motives becoming ego-based, and consequently worthless.
No-one will ever know if the gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo, whether deliberately or accidentally, would have harmed the three year old boy who fell into his enclosure. Equally, no-one will ever know whether he would have protected the youngster and gently held him until officials could return him to his parents.
Because no-one can know the outcome there was only one right course of action. It was taken and the boy was saved, returned to anxious parents who, because human beings are not machines, had inadvertently taken their eyes of their child momentarily, allowing the curious little boy to do what a three-year-old will sometimes do – get up to mischief.
Images similar to the one fronting this post, display to the world that there are those who place the life of an animal above that of a three-year-old child. The venom and aggression shown to the parents of the child reveal the fractures that exist in our relationships with each other as human beings. Failure to place oneself in the position of, firstly, the parents desperate for the plight of their offspring, and secondly, the agonizing decision of the zoo staff, forced by circumstances to kill one of their beloved animals, is becoming all too common as human beings band together on the internet, intent only on focusing their ill-felt viciousness on innocent members of their own species.
“There, but for the grace of God,” is a simple thought sadly lacking in the minds of those so quick to condemn.
While the media circus was focused on the tragedy at Cincinnati Zoo this week, in Australia a 42-year-old woman, enjoying a paddle on the beach with her friend one moonlit night, was grabbed by a saltwater crocodile and carried off into the sea, never to be seen again.
In California a swimmer lost a leg in a vicious shark attack. Meanwhile, in Iraq innocent people are dying yet again in Fallujah as the U.S. backed Iraqi army attempt to drive ISIS out of the city.
Where are the placards demanding justice for the woman eaten by the crocodile, or the swimmer now missing a leg, or the poor children being slaughtered yet again in Fallujah?
Stuff happens. The world is a dangerous place. There will always be accidents – tragedies we can never wholly guard against.
There’s a time and place for demonstrations and waving placards. This was not one of them. There is no blame to be attached to anyone for what occurred. Gorillas are normally placid animals, but can turn dangerous when threatened, or they become confused.
The woman eaten by the crocodile, the swimmer who lost his leg to the shark, were victims of accidents. Sadly, there was no-one around to shoot the crocodile, or the shark, before they could do what came naturally to them.
The little boy in the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo was in some danger. It was fortunate there was someone available who could save his life. For that we should all be grateful.
Had the child been killed or maimed by the gorilla, what then would the placards have read?
 “Cincinnati Zoo gorilla shooting: Police to investigate” BBC, May 31st 2016