The Ethics Lessons In The Tragic Death Of Harambe The Gorilla

The primary lesson is this: Sometimes bad things happen and nobody deserves to be punished.

The tragedy of Harambe the Gorilla is exactly this kind of incident.

In case you weren’t following zoo news over the long weekend, what happened was this. On Saturday, a mother visiting the Cincinnati zoo with several children in tow took her eyes off of a toddler long enough for him to breach the three foot barricade at the Gorilla World exhibit and fall into its moat. Harambe, a 17-year old Lowland gorilla male, took hold of the child, and zookeepers shot the animal dead.

Then  animal rights zealots held a vigil outside the zoo to mourn the gorilla.  Petitions were placed on line blaming the child’s mother for the gorilla’s death. Other critics said that the zoo-keepers should have tranquilized the beast, a member of an endangered species. The zoo called a news conference to defend its actions.

Lessons:

1. Animal rights activists are shameless, and will exploit any opportunity to advance their agenda, which in its craziest form demands that animals be accorded the same civil rights as humans. Their argument rests equally on sentiment and science, and takes an absolute position in a very complex ethics conflict. This incident is a freak, and cannot fairly be used to reach any conclusions about zoos and keeping wild animals captive.

2. Yes, the mother made a mistake, by definition. This is res ipsa loquitur: “the thing speaks for itself.” If a child under adult supervision gets into a gorilla enclosure, then the adult has not been competent, careful and diligent in his or her oversight.  The truth is, however, that every parent alive has several, probably many, such moments of distraction that could result in disaster, absent moral luck. This wasn’t gross negligence; it was routine, human negligence, for nobody is perfect all the time. You want gross negligence involving animals? How about this, one of the first ethics essays I ever wrote, about the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin holding his infant son in one arm while feeding and taunting a 12-foot crocodile? You want gross negligence amounting to child endangerment? Look no further than the 6-month-old waterskiier’s parents. Taking one’s eyes off of a child  for a minute or two, however, if not unavoidable, is certainly minor negligence that is endemic to parenthood. Zoos, moreover, are not supposed to be dangerous. Continue reading

Speaking Of Photography Ethics, How About “Don’t Kill Anything”?

selfie dolphin

I’ll admit it: I have about as little interest in photography and photographs as it is possible to have for a human living in this century. I regard the mania for taking photos of oneself constantly and posting them on-line as strong evidence that crippling narcissism can be transmitted electronically, and as we have been discussing in comment to this recent post, if you try to use me as a prop in your cellphone camera-warped quest to make every your waking hour the object of public gawking, you had better ask permission first, or else. I realize this attitude is fighting the “everybody does it” tide, but I’m right, everybody is wrong, and that’s all there is to it.

This story out of Argentina, in addition to being disgusting, shows just how unbalanced the selfie-craze is making human priorities. I know—Argentina. This couldn’t happen here, right?  Not in a country where Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are surging in the polls….we’re too smart.

Two La Plata dolphins, members of a rare and endangered species, got to close to shore in their playfulness near an Argentinian resort last week. Some bathers plucked the small cetaceans out of the waves, and they were passed around a smiling, brain-dead mob containing selfie-mad amateur photographers.  One of the dolphins died of stress and exposure, and was just dumped on the beach. But never mind: it will live on in online shares and Instagram. What’s the problem, dude?

“At least one of these dolphins suffered a horrific, traumatic and utterly unnecessary death, for the sake of a few photographs,” a spokesperson from the World Animal Protection group said.  “This terribly unfortunate event is an example of the casual cruelty people can inflict when they use animals for entertainment purposes.”

Activists groups just cannot help themselves, can they?  They must squeeze every episode into their own agenda. This is one of many reasons why they aren’t trusted. This episode was about reckless, selfish, ignorant people who don’t have respect for living things, not Sea World.

Well, the crowd got their selfies, so it’s all worth it to them. Meanwhile. as for their once living, breathing, prop…

dead dolphin

Fortunately, the carcass was still good for one more photo.

 

The Circus, The Animal Lovers, And The Saint’s Excuse

Ringlings_Elephant

Animal rights groups just paid a large price for falling prey to #13 on the Rationalization List, The Saints Excuse, which is described in part thusly..

This rationalization has probably caused more death and human suffering than any other. The words “it’s for a good cause” have been used to justify all sorts of lies, scams and mayhem. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal…The Saint’s Excuse  allows charities to strong-arm contributors, and advocacy groups to use lies and innuendo to savage ideological opponents. The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else.

And thus it was that  in 2000 a former Ringling Brothers circus worker filed a lawsuit claiming that the circus’s elephants were abused, just as animal rights groups have long claimed. It was later determined that he had been paid at least $190,000 by the animal rights groups, including the Humane Society, the Fund for Animals and the ASPCA, to back their charges. This is illegal. This is unethical. After a 2009 trial found that the abuse allegations could not be proved, the circus sued for legal fees. The ASPCA paid Ringling Bros. $9.3 million in a settlement in 2012, and now the other groups will have to cough up $16 million. They got what they deserved. Continue reading