Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Justice for Harambe?

Harambe, a silver-backed gorilla at the Cinncinnati Zoo was killed recently to protect the life of a three-year-old boy who had fallen into the gorilla's enclosure. Thankfully, the little boy is all right, despite having fallen 15 feet into a moat and then dragged repeatedly around by a 450 pound agitated gorilla.

It was a tragedy, especially so because the gorilla was an endangered species.

As Christians we have a responsibility to care for all creation and to respect and honor the nature of all of God's creatures. When a species is endangered, it naturally deserves special protection and care.

But does that mean that a gorilla has rights? 

Merriam Webster defines a right as something to which one has a just claim: (as in) a. the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled. If Harambe has suffered an injustice, as some claim, is that because Harambe has rights tantamount to human rights?

No, Harambe is not entitled to human rights.  He is not a human and, no, animals are not persons as some are actually claiming.

Did Harambe have a right to have his life protected even when a three-year-old child had fallen into his enclosure and the child's life was in grave danger?

Harambe did not have that right. And, therefore, there was no injustice. Whether he intended harm to the child or not is irrelevant. The behavior of animals is morally neutral. He was neither innocent nor guilty. He was a gorilla. And gorillas cannot safely be in proximity with humans.

Raising the concept of justice in regards to this case is troubling. It anthropomorphizes the gorilla. Thankfully even PETA is not saying that the gorilla should not have been sacrificed to save the life of the child. But they are saying that this was an injustice and therefore someone must be held accountable. And it is the mother who is receiving their disapproving gaze.

Really? I will grant you that it is highly unusual for a child to enter a gorilla enclosure with the mom standing right there. But she WAS standing right there. She also had other children with her. I prefer to assume, not that this mother was negligent, but that this three-year-old must have been one wiry, active little boy. Witnesses say that it all happened in a matter of seconds.

Had the mother been holding the hand of each child (never mind that she only has two hands), perhaps this would not have happened. Maybe had she turned to her son one nanosecond sooner, she could have grabbed him and stopped him. The fact that she looked away for a few seconds hardly makes her a negligent mother.

That a magnificent gorilla, an endangered species, had to be killed to protect a young child is a tragedy. It would have been an even greater tragedy had the zoo not acted and the child been killed by the gorilla.

We live in a fallen world. We do our best to make moral choices and to honor God (and his creation) as well as our neighbor.

Sometimes, accidents are accidents and not anyone's fault. It would seem that this is one of those times.

No comments: