‘Justice for Harambe’: the misanthropy of animal rights

On Saturday, a little boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo. One of the gorillas, a 400-pound silverback called Harambe, approached the boy and then started to drag him through the water in the enclosure’s moat. According to the zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, the boy was in the moat for 10 minutes before the gorilla was shot dead. Despite widespread criticism of the shooting, Maynard has said he would make the same decision again.

No doubt there are lessons to be learned about the safety of the zoo’s barriers to keep visitors out of enclosures with potentially dangerous animals. But a simple health-and-safety question has been turned into a cause célèbre – with the ire of agitated animal-rights campaigners directed, astonishingly, at the parents of the little boy.

A petition, ‘Justice for Harambe’, which has already had over 300,000 signatories, claims: ‘This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child. We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision.’ The petition goes on to demand that the child’s parents be ‘held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life’, before stating: ‘We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation. We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death.’

The person who created this petition and the thousands who have signed it are, frankly, misanthropic arseholes. So obsessed are they with the life of a gorilla, but too lily-livered to admit that they believe that an animal’s life is worth more than a human’s, that they want to crucify the boy’s parents. Anyone who has spent time around children will know that they have an incredible capacity to get up to mischief when your back is turned, even for a moment. Parents are constantly distracted, too, not least in a busy zoo. Even our own prime minister, David Cameron, managed to leave his daughter behind in a pub in 2012. Parents misplace children all the time – thankfully, in the vast majority of cases, the end result is no harm to the child and a minor scare for the parents.

Yet, rather than sympathise with the terrible scare that these parents have suffered – their child at the mercy of an animal much stronger than an adult human – these petitioners think the best thing to do is demand action against them for negligence. Such is the irrationality that flows from believing in ‘animal rights’. If anyone is worthy of opprobrium, it is anyone prepared to attach his or her name to such a dreadful petition.

Rob Lyons is campaigns manager at Action on Consumer Choice.

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