As your liaison to the Faunasphere, I feel like I have been remiss by not posting something about the incident in Cincinnati. I guess I didn’t because the whole situation is just too depressing and it also didn’t seem right to post about it during Memorial Day weekend. Also because I wasn’t sure if I had anything to say that wasn’t being said by many others.
Also, to be honest, this is one of the times when the animal activist community isn’t showing itself in he best light. Here’s what I wrote on FB shortly after the story broke and the online temperature started to rise:
Dear Vegans, The killing of the endangered gorilla in Cincy Zoo was horrible. No argument there. And zoos suck. No argu there, either. BUT when you start attacking the toddler’s parents, especially in vicious terms, you are not helping. First, “inadequate parenting” could be an unfair accusation–kids can get lost in a flash. Even if it’s not, tho, you are providing fodder for yet more “angry / abusive vegan” stories in the media, and thus making everyone’s job harder. No matter what you think of the situation or the parents in particular, please keep a civil tone b/c your need to vent doesn’t outweigh the animals’ need for us to represent their interests responsibly.
Many activists, including every leading / respected one I’ve read, has basically said the same thing. But their voices seemed drowned in a classic Internet tidal wave of venom aimed at the parents, which is a drag. (For the record, I didn’t mind so much when the animal loving hoards went after that ahole dentist who illegally killed Cecil the Lion. But this is way different.)
I’m usually pretty happy to (privately) judge parents whose kids annoy me, but in this case I really can’t. I think these parents were just monumentally unlucky that their lose-the-kid moment happened at the zoo instead of Kmart or Kroger, like it does for many people. (Plus, you know, racism.) And is it unreasonable to ask that the Zoo do more to defend the parents? I get that they probably can’t due to legal CYA. But does anyone else have the sense that the dialogue is unfolding in ways the zoo finds beneficial? It, in my view, is ultimately responsible for this tragedy, because, yeah, it’s not actually that hard to design a barrier that will keep out even a determined four-year-old. As the lawsuits unfold, I’m guessing we’ll hear about safety concessions made in the service of “visitor experience.”
On the other hand, the barrier did indeed remain unbreached for years and many thousands of other visitors. So although I think zoos are at best a highly mixed bag, maybe this is one of those slippery incidents where no one is proximally to blame.
At the same time, poor, poor Harambe..
That’s my 2c. What’s yours?
PS – Here’s a brilliant (and funny) take.