Allahpundit covered the whole gorilla story the other night and I didn’t feel like chiming in because he really hit most of the bases I would have. But now things have taken yet another turn. It sounds like both the police, who initially appeared content to let the zoo handle this, and federal officials are bending to public pressure and may be looking at some sort of criminal investigation. (Washington Post)
The Hamilton County prosecutors’ office said Tuesday that officials plan to meet with police investigating how a boy fell into an enclosure at the Cincinnati zoo before the endangered gorilla was shot and killed by rescuers.
The announcement arrives just days after police said they had no plan to file charges against the boy’s parents, but occurs amid a growing online chorus calling for the guardians to be held legally responsible for the animal’s death.
Other critics have accused the zoo of not doing enough to keep people out of the dangerous exhibit at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Look, I’m going to come off as the bad guy here for the folks who are running up petition drives on the web, but I wanted to get one thing out of the way right off the bat. I happen to oppose the keeping of large mammals and big, obviously smart fish or aquatic mammals in zoos and aquariums. Frankly, I don’t see a need for any animals being kept in such fashion in an era where you can watch them all digitally and in far more detail than you’ll get at a zoo anyway. Whether it’s the big, majestic predators or the huge herbivores, they seem to be miserable in those pens. Some of them, like the chimps, orangutans and, yes, the gorillas, are darned near human in intelligence. Dolphins, orcas and some other aquarium residents seem to be as well, and I feel sorry for them when they live in such circumstances. But I don’t boycott these facilities or try to get the government to shut them down because that’s something the free market should drive and animals don’t have “rights” as we have established such for human beings. I just don’t patronize those places because I’m personally opposed to them. And yes… I feel outraged that this gorilla wound up being shot.
With all of that said, and keeping in mind everything Allahpundit already wrote, what precisely are people hoping to achieve here in terms of “Justice for Harambe?” The local police are looking at charging the parents. The feds are asking whether or not the Animal Welfare Act was violated. As sad as it is that this majestic creature lived its entire life in confinement as a novelty act and wound up being gunned down in a ditch, we need to pause for a breath of fresh air and a reality check.
As for the local police “stepping up” under public pressure, accusing the parents of negligence in a facility where a kid can get into the enclosure that quickly is just crazy. We can always say that mom and dad “should have been more careful” but we really can’t be prosecuting them for a moment of lapsed attention in a supposedly kid friendly place. But if we don’t charge the parents, who do we sick the cops on? The zoo? Yes, they should absolutely revamp their enclosures to make sure nobody can climb in, but are we going to arrest somebody?
I hate to be the cold hearted capitalist here, but that gorilla was their property. In reality, they could have shot it for no reason at all. I’d be ticked off as all get out and wish terrible things on them, but I don’t see how we lock any of the zookeepers or administrators up for gorilla murder, particularly when the child was plausibly in danger. This is where the question of the feds getting involved comes into play. The only law they could seriously be looking at is the Animal Welfare Act. It’s a good and needed law, but it covers very specific patterns of systemic abuse and minimum requirements for care of animals in particular situations. Keeping a gorilla in an enclosure for display isn’t seen as abuse under the law if they’re getting some bare minimum of care and medical treatment which Harambe was by all accounts. This was an emergency situation and the method of dispatching him wasn’t particularly cruel or lingering and is, in fact, how many animals are killed on a regular basis.
I suppose it’s possible the zoo could be liable in a civil suit for endangering the child in the first place, but that’s not really what everyone is yelling about. In fact, this is the question which strikes at the heart of what prompted me to comment on this sad situation. Some members of the public may be ready to lash out at the parents. Others are angry with the zoo administrators. But in the end, it sounds like the mob mentality simply wants justice for Harambe and that means making somebody walk the plank for his “murder.” Please keep in mind that Harambe didn’t have the same rights that we do as human beings. We can (hopefully) learn a lesson from this sad affair and the animal display industry can learn some lessons and make changes. But sending somebody to jail because that gorilla wound up being shot as a precautionary measure to save a child’s life is neither the right thing to do under the law nor a solution to any systemic problem of animal care.