Friday, June 3, 2016

The Shooting of a Gorilla

Like so many, I have been touched and saddened by the shooting of Harambe the gorilla. I write this, knowing that his death has gotten lots of attention -- attention that the deaths of factory farm animals don't get... for that matter, his death has gotten more attention that the shooting of most human beings.

Nevertheless, Harambe was a beautiful being who was shot, ultimately, through no real fault of his own. And he was put into a sad and ultimately dangerous situation by virtue of being kept in a zoo by (and for) humans.

The Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry has issued this statement:

"The tragic killing of Harambe, the 17 year-old silverback gorilla, highlights the tensions and contradictions in human relationship with other animals.

"Humans long for interactions with other animals: we seek to understand them, we want to know them, and we have sought to possess them and use them for our own enjoyment and entertainment. More recently, we have come to grasp the intelligence, agency, and emotional lives of other animals. We have been confronting the damage of human activity on the habitats and lives of other animals, and in so doing we are seeking to preserve the species we have brought to the brink of extinction. In the context of all this we reflect on the place of zoos.

"Some will argue that zoos play an important role in the education of humans about other animals and in the conservation of species. While it is true that humans can learn about other animals in zoos, we now have the virtual technology to offer that education. Some will bemoan the loss of pleasure that humans receive from seeing other animals in zoos. Yet, human pleasure does not supersede the rights of other animals to be free from confinement and display. Species conservation is crucial as many species are lost to the effects of human activity. However, the confinement of other animals in zoos – what we call animals in captivity – should be ended, and animals who can no longer survive as free-living beings should be placed in sanctuaries and other settings where they can live their lives as naturally as possible, free from exploitation.

"We call for the continual examination of human relationships with other species and individual animals in the web of life in light of the ongoing evidence of the sentience of other than human beings.

"We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every being."

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