The Slaughter of the Innocents (#7)
In the past weeks, due to no fault of theirs, a lion and a lioness, and a low plains silver-back male gorilla, all in their prime, and decades long peaceful residents of their respective zoos, were shot to death in their enclosures by zoo officials, because of irresponsible human behavior.
In the case of the lions, the zoo officials had to take the drastic action (in Chile), to try to save a 20-year old man, who purposely jumped into the lion enclosure, took all his clothes off, and taunted the lions when they ignored him, till they took notice and attacked him. He was being mauled when the officials shot to death the two lions. The young man was purportedly trying to commit suicide by lion mauling. He may survive, but both the lion and lioness are certainly dead.
Then, a few days ago, at the Cincinnati Zoo (USA), a 4-year old boy got away from his parents and somehow climbed and crawled past the hedges and fences and fell into the gorilla enclosure. The resident male gorilla called Harmbe, 400-lbs and 17-years old, a long-term resident of the zoo, grabbed the boy and seemed to want to protect him, and not harm him (as seen in the video of the incident, and according to direct eye witnesses). But, as the human spectators screamed shrilly and incessantly (there were other gorillas in the enclosure watching calmly and quietly), the screaming seemed to agitate and alarm Harmbe, who then, at times, rushed around dragging the boy with him, seemingly panicked from all the screaming. The injuries to the boy, a possible concussion and some scratches (non-life threatening) were from the dragging, and didn’t seem to be from any direct attack from Harmbe. The boy was sitting between Harmbe’s legs when the officials shot the big male gorilla, fearing for the boy’s life.
While sad about it, not many are protesting the death of the lions, as it seems clear to everyone that the young man, intent on committing suicide, by lion, was going to be obliged and mauled to death by the male and female lions.
But, there is a huge debate raging in the public arena whether the male gorilla should have been tranquilized rather than shot.
The officials claim that there was no time to tranquilize a 400-lb big male gorilla like Harmbe and expect instant results. According to them, it could have taken many minutes for the tranquilizer to have worked, during which time the gorilla would have become confused and alarmed and could have hurt the boy. Therefore they had no choice but to shoot Harmbe dead.
We think, while certainly tragic and incredibly sad, the zoo officials were right and had no choice under the circumstances but to shoot to kill the gorilla. Because even if Harmbe didn’t mean to harm the boy, and it seems it didn’t, yet, there was a distinct possibility he could have hurt the boy grievously just because of his incredible strength, versus, unknown to him, the fragility of the little boy.
What is truly tragic in both these incidents is the fact that through no fault of theirs, both the lions and the male gorilla lost their lives, simply because their lives matter so little in comparison to any human’s. And that is the whole tragic story of human domination over every other species.
In the early part of human development, nature and animal species, managed to hold their own and co-exist with humans because we weren’t that many, and our weapons were not that effective. But as humans became more intelligent, knowledgeable, dominant, and developed more lethal weapons, our superiority over nature, and its other animal species, became mindlessly destructive. We took to exploiting every aspect of the natural environment for our exclusive benefit and the destruction of the environment and the other species as mere collateral damage, and if that was not bad enough, we invented killing everything just for sport, till we almost wiped out all major species and their habitats.
The earth became a humanity saturated planet with every other species being systematically and callously wiped-out. It’s only in the past couple of decades that some effort is being made to reverse the trend in some parts of the world, and even that is a struggle as the majority of humanity is still mostly preoccupied with their own personal needs and wants and could not give a damn about trees, grasslands, animals, birds or plants which they still view mainly as a nuisance and hindrance to more development.
Even though our collective intellectual capacity has grown tremendously, and our intelligence compared to other species on this planet is incomparably superior, yet we did not develop enough sense to appreciate the natural environment, and all its natural wonders, including its vast diversity of flora and fauna, until we almost destroyed it all. Human civilization with its preference for self-serving convenient but soul-destroying artificial environments will provide a bleak existence without a vast and balancing natural environment with abundant wild spaces and wild species.
Most humanity is so far removed from nature and wildlife that most people on this planet will never experience any kind of meaningful personal contact with the natural environment except the artificial and sanitized versions in city parks and zoos. And that is the problem. Most of humanity does not, and will not, ever know true wilderness, its magnificence, and its value to us.
Even now, every human life is considered far superior to any animal’s regardless of how noble and magnificent they may be, in contrast to how common place, lowly and crass we may be. That value of human life course completely discounted by us in war and in daily homicides, but when it comes to animals, any animal, verses any human, our lives suddenly become priceless.
The most lethal words that humanity has taken to heart, in principal, regardless of religion, are the following words, an extract from the Bible, Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 28 -29, that are taken as God’s command to first man and therefore to humanity at large, and encapsulate humanity’s attitude towards the natural world:
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
[As we have said, one does not have to be a believer in the Bible, or the religions it represents; the actions of humanity over the ages, regardless of race, religion or culture (except for very few exceptions) have given credence to the following exhortation.]
The overwhelming percentage of humanity, over the ages, has lived by that exact creed whether by accident or by design.
We have been fruitful, and how we have multiplied; to the point that there is no room for us, let alone any other species that isn’t being pushed aside to make even more room for us. The earth is crawling with humans and the natural environment has been surely ‘subdued’ by us.
According to the exhortation above, we took “dominion over the fish of the sea” until we have depleted vast areas of the oceans of almost all life. We took dominion “over the fowl of the air” till hundreds of bird species are extinct or near extinction. And we certainly took dominion “over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”. Except for a very few countries, and spaces, wild and untouched places are tiny little islands in the encroaching sea of ever consuming humanity.
When it came to herbs and trees, and their fruits and seeds, there we were not slack either. In most countries, we have exploited grass lands and forests, and harvested grass, brush, scrub, forests and jungles, for farms, twine and timber, until there is hardly anything left anymore. Where there are still some wild spaces surviving, there is a daily onslaught to strip them bare for agriculture, mining, timber, and plant and animal products.
But it is our callous and arrogant attitude towards the living, breathing, feeling entities, the other species, that is the most distressing. We are too full of ourselves, and the animals have to pay the price, every single time. When it comes to following the above cited ‘commandments’, humanity has excelled to the point that even God must be amazed how effective we have been.