The shooting death on May 28, 2016, of Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo raises an interesting take on social hypocrisy. Harambe, a critically endangered 17 year old lowland gorilla was killed by the zoo’s emergency response team in an effort to prevent harm from happening to a 3 year old child that had made his way into the Gorilla World exhibit at the zoo. As a result of his fall into the exhibit, the child suffered a concussion and scrapes and bruises, but no life threatening injuries. None of the injuries had resulted from his interaction with the gorilla.
Zoo officials stated that the decision was made to “dispatch” Harambe because they feared imminent harm to the child. Tranquilizing the gorilla was considered, but rejected, as the time required for the tranquilizer to take effect would have left the child at an unacceptable risk of harm by the gorilla. Following the death of Harambe, demonstrators gathered outside the zoo calling for a boycott, and social media was alight with people’s negative reactions to the killing.The groundswell of negative reaction was focused on the Cincinnati Zoo for killing Harambe and for the fact that the primate was in captivity.
Perhaps these protestors, if their desire is to improve the treatment of captive animals, should address the difference between the treatment of animals on display for “educational purposes” in zoos, with that of animals raised as commodities for human consumption. Twenty four million chickens are killed for meat in the U.S. each day. They are killed at between four and six weeks old, after being fed a steady supply of antibiotics as non therapeutic growth promoters in addition to Roxarsone, an arsenic based growth promoting compound. Chickens, as do turkeys, have portions of their beaks and toes cut off with hot blades to stop them pecking and scratching each other. Chickens, like all other birds are not covered under the Humane Slaughter Act or The Animal Welfare Act.
Other animals raised for human consumption are treated as shamefully as is poultry. Cattle are branded, dehorned and castrated without pain killers. Pigs have their tails cut off, the ends of their teeth snipped off with pliers and are castrated, also without painkillers. Animal rights activists protesting the treatment of animals destined for the deep fryer and the dinner table are often labeled as “hippies”, “loonies”, “radicals” and at times by the F.B.I. as “domestic terrorists“.
The U.S. Animal Welfare Act was signed into law by President Johnson in 1966. This Act regulates the treatment of animals used for exhibition, research, or as a pet. Animals not covered by the Act are laboratory mice and rats, cold blooded animals, birds and farm animals. As farm animals are excluded by the Animal Welfare Act, any research conducted upon them is likewise not covered by the Act. The New York Times published an article concerning the alleged mistreatment of animals at the taxpayer funded U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.
It is apparent that unless laws are passed to prevent it, some people have no problem with treating animals in an immoral and unethical manor. Many videos have been released portraying the treatment and handling of farm animals, that in any other situation would have resulted in animal cruelty charges.
If the protestors that showed up at the Cincinnati Zoo had focused their attention upon the need for an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act to protect all animals from mistreatment, they would not only have done good by one gorilla, they would have sent a wave of fear through the multi billion dollar factory farm and meat processing industry. Hopefully they won’t wait until another gorilla is killed in order to stand up and do the right thing.
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