Venom and vitriol. All over my news feed. All over the tv news. All over the internet.
A silverback gorilla was shot by zoo staff after a 4-year old child managed to get into the enclosure. I’m sure you’ve seen the story and perhaps seen the video footage of the child’s foot in the grip of the 450lb ape.
Let me just get something straight here before I hop up on my little soap box.
I love animals.
I love animals and always have. I have been fascinated and enthralled by Jane Goodall’s life story since childhood. I read every book in the library about Jane. I also read every book that I could get my hands on about dolphins, sharks, whales and other marine creatures. I imagined tramping through jungles, as Goodall had, chronicling and re-defining what we know about animals. I dreamed about animal research, worked in vet clinics through high school and after university, considered vet school after my BSc, watched baby foals through the night at the vet teaching hospital nearby, considered going undercover at MarineLand to film footage of mistreatment of the marine mammals, ran a pet sitting business, and volunteered and worked at the local humane society and have been rescuing animals since I was a child. (Just ask my mom about the many baby birds, the baby squirrels, the cats, dogs (“Pleeeeease Mom, can we keep him??”) and, oh, don’t forget to ask about the rat that I rescued that had a parasitic worm in its neck… that is an amazing story)
And this week not once, but twice, I drove 3 hours in order to deliver some baby skunks to a wildlife rehabber where they could be cared for until they are old enough to be released.
That is animal love, sweet ones. 😉
Let me tell you another story from my week that illustrates my point. (Stay with me here… it’ll tie in, I promise)
I got home from my second skunk run to find that one of my kids had to be at piano in 5 minutes. Plus he hadn’t had a snack. I whipped into my task-oriented mode in order to get a snack together, and get him in the car before driving down the street in order to deliver him in time.
For some reason, I didn’t take the time to do up my seat belt.
Let’s get one more thing straight here. I always, always, do up my seat belt. Always. No exceptions. I feel naked without one. Seriously.
So not only did I not take the time to do up my seat belt, I also did not take the time to grab my purse off the wall containing my wallet. Another weird move. I always, always, always take my wallet with me in the car. But I figured that it was a 2 minute drive and we were running late – what could happen?
Cue road construction and detour route… right down the street we take to piano. Cue major traffic. And cue impatient drivers.
Long story short, a car pulled out right in front of our vehicle. I had time to slam on the brakes and throw my hands up in a ‘what-were-you-thinking-you-nearly-caused-an-accident’ gesture, before I was whizzing off again, trying to get the kid to piano on time.
But in the back of my mind, I was like, ‘what the heck were the odds of me not wearing a seat belt, not having my driver’s licence with me, and having a car pull out right in front of me causing an accident’? Before I left the house, I would have said the odds were 1 in ten thousand.
And yet, it happened.
Through a many-factored series of events, it led to a very close possibility of an accident. (It was so very close.) And honestly, if it had happened … well, firstly, I would have been charged for not having my driver’s licence with me. But secondly, I could have been seriously injured because of no seat belt.
In a similar vein, I see so much hatred and venom spewed at the mother of a young child. And yet, it must have been a strange series of events that led to her child ending up in the hands of the gorilla. Honestly, she went to the zoo that day and I’m pretty sure as she left home, she figured that the odds of her child ending up in the gorilla enclosure were about 1 billion to one. Who would have thought that could happen? But it did. Just like I chose not to wear a seat belt for my 2 minute drive, and it just so happened that a car drove out in front of me.
There should be no judgement here. There should be no hatred. There should not be anger and venom everywhere. There should be a realization that mistakes sometimes happen.
Perhaps the mother took her eye off her very active child while attending to a crying sibling. Perhaps the child managed to thwart the barriers put in place to protect people because he was curious, or playing a game. We could speculate all day long.
The fact is, I am certain that an agonizing decision was made that day. Those keepers, who knew the gorilla, loved him. They would never had taken him down if they didn’t feel it necessary. And seriously, what parent has not, at some point, lost their child, even for a moment? If you are calling for that mother’s head, shame on you. And if you are not a parent and have not had the experience of being in ultimate charge of a little being (or several) of your own, then you have no right to judge. And if you have never lost sight of your child for even one moment? Great. Congrats on being the very first parent to never, ever lose sight of a child.
The staff, in split seconds, had to weigh what they knew of Harambe, and his personality, but also the complexity of being in a bizarre situation. He was not responding to calls from the keepers. He seemed a bit unsure of what to do with the little creature in front of him. There was lots of noise and turmoil from the watching crowd. Who knows what could have happened?
No one can know. There are statements today from some saying that Harambe was actually protecting the child. But in those agonizing few moments, a decision had to be made. And I believe the correct one was made. The staff chose to be sure that a little boy would be safe and returned to his family, rather than take a chance that a 450lb gorilla in a strange and stressful situation might make a bad decision. Of course, under normal circumstances, this gorilla was likely a gentle giant. And yet, in a stressful situation, not realizing how fragile a tiny human can be, how easily could Harambe have unintentionally done something that could have caused irreparable damage?
I think rather than spewing hate at the parents, at the zoo staff, at zoos in general, and at children, who are curious and sometimes silly creatures, who also sometimes make bad decisions or mistakes, that we should be showing love and grace. Be thankful that you are not the one who had to make an agonizing decision like that. To have to pull the trigger on an animal you loved, in order to save a stranger you didn’t know. To have to decide that it was more important to protect a child from possible harm.
Not for a moment do I think that God isn’t sad about this unfortunate ending to one of His magnificent creatures. I know that God loved Harambe. There are a few Scripture verses that demonstrate God’s love for his creation, including our feathered and furred friends with whom we share this Earth space. I’m convinced that God knew and loved Harambe.
Stop the hatred. Just stop. And stop the “Justice for Harambe” campaign.
How about justice for the 800 migrants who drowned this week in the Mediterranean Sea? Or what about justice for the thousands of children who have died this week because of lack of clean water to drink? What about justice for children sold into sex trafficking this week because their parents cannot afford to feed all of their children? Or people who are hungry, sad, abused or oppressed in your own community?
Sad situation? Yes. Unfortunate? Yes. But seriously, let’s understand that sometimes things happen, decisions have to be made, and sometimes the outcome is sad. But let’s stop demonizing all those involved. Let’s stop the blame game. Let’s focus on real issues of justice here.