If you don’t have Facebook or watch the news, you may not have heard about the big debate that was buzzing on social media last week. A four-year-old child fell into a gorilla pen at the Cincinnati Zoo. After being dragged around by Harambe, the gorilla, officials eventually shot and killed the giant primate.
Of course, everyone had an expert opinion on how the situation should have been handled and whether or not the generally considered “gentle giant” deserved to be shot and killed. People were also up in arms about how and why the child fell into the gorilla pen in the first place. Whoever is at fault doesn’t really matter, because it will not bring Harambe back to life. I think the important question here that nobody seems to be asking is: why is this magnificent creature captive in a zoo in the first place?
Really, what is the purpose of zoos to begin with? Basically, the only real motive is to entertain people with the end goal of making as much profit as possible, with a complete disregard for the freedom that the animals being exploited should have. Sure, one could argue that zoos are great for educational purposes, but animals who are captive are not even behaving the same way they would in the wild, so how does staring at them sitting in a pen educate anyone? We would be better off on an African safari, or quite frankly, simply watching the Discovery Channel.
One thing that is clear is just how outraged so many people were that Harambe was killed. This shows the growing awareness that humans have towards animals and how they should be treated. This is amazing, as animals are sentient beings just like us. In fact, in 2012, a large group of predominant scientists signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness that declared that animals do have conscious awareness in the same way that we do. Now, can you imagine if you were locked up in a cage, zoo, or aquarium? Because it really is essentially the same thing.
We Need To Collectively Stop Supporting The Exploitation Of Animals
I strongly believe that sometime in the near future, and in the next generations to come, people will be shocked and appalled to learn that in the past we took animals from the wild and bred them in captivity just so we could stare at them. With more and more awareness being raised about the exploitation of animals, real change is occurring.
Seaworld, for example, has seen a drastic decline in ticket sales after the release of the controversial documentary, Blackfish, which tells the story of the psychological damage inflicted upon killer whales that are kept captive in tanks and aquariums. Shedding light on how far from natural these enclosures really are for the animals helps us, the often-unaware consumer, understand just how inhumane this type of exploitation really is.
Last year, a hugely popular circus group, The Ringling Brothers, announced that by 2018 all 14 of their elephants currently performing in their circus act will get to retire on a 200-acre elephant conservation in Florida. This decision was influenced by growing public concern for animal welfare.
Other Factors Worth Considering
It appears as though if people can see the exploitation that is taking place and are able to understand exactly why it is inhumane in the first place, then they are more likely to stop supporting it. Unfortunately, there are many barbaric practices that are happening on a mass scale all around us, which are actually even more inhumane than keeping animals captive.
The story of Harambe reminded me of the story of the infamous Cecil the lion, who was shot by a trophy hunter in Africa last year. There was so much outrage all over social media about ‘how horrible the man,’ American dentist, Walter Palmer, was who shot him.
This really got me thinking: what separates Cecil the lion, or Harambe for that matter, no different than the millions of animals that are raised and abused in completely inhumane conditions for the sole purpose of consumption? Why is that okay, while the isolated deaths of these other sentient creatures is not? Why love one, but eat the other?
And what about the millions of animals that are used for testing each year? What separates these beings from being held to such a high regard as Cecil and Harambe?
When it comes down to it, I think the majority of people would prefer a reality where no animal has to suffer at all, yet we still choose to support these industries. Why? A big reason is simply ignorance — out of sight, out of mind. But it is also out of convenience and affordability. Let’s not let the death of Harambe be in vain. Harambe’s death can serve as a symbol for something that should never have to happen in the first place.
What Can You Do?
In the same way Seaworld has seen profits plummet and the Ringling Brothers are retiring their elephants, you, as the consumer, can make choices that support your innate feelings that will directly affect these industries that are profiting off of animal exploitation. You can simply opt out and quit supporting them. Don’t go to the circus, don’t go to the zoo, don’t go to the aquarium, don’t buy generic factory-farmed meat and animal products, and don’t purchase products that have been tested on animals. Vote with your dollar. If there were no demand, these industries and inhumane practices would not exist. The decision is yours: what kind of world do you want to live in?
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