The Boy and the Gorilla: A Moral Dilemma


The incident in Cincinnati zoo with the four year old boy going to the gorilla enclosure received headlines around the world last week. The raw footage that was being shared on social media was storming up even more reactions than one would initially expect. Nevertheless, anyone who saw some of the uncensored video clips of the Cincinnati zoo’s gorilla named ‘Harambe’ would have some sort of reaction because seeing a child dragged around by an adult gorilla like a rag doll is not easy to watch – especially if you’re a parent.

I noticed a trend in the reaction of my friends on Facebook to what I stated the situations as being the result of a careless parent. Most of my friends who agreed with the mother of the kid in saying that ‘mistakes’ do happen were themselves parents and those who argued against the mother were mostly not parents.

Yes, mistakes do happen. And yes, it only takes one grave ‘mistake’ for a child to get mauled by a wild animal, or get hit by a car, or get kidnapped, or drown in a public swimming pool, or..or… and the list goes on. From all the video clips I’ve seen online so far, it seemed like the gorilla got even more nervous because of all the people shouting and yelling.

People who claim the mother needs empathy and not judgement from the public seem to believe that ends justify means – which itself is hardly an empathetic approach

There are many questions that can be asked to question ‘what if…’ scenarios but it is unlikely that once can come up with a black or white response or solution to this event because what happened in this case was truly a moral dilemma. Just because the mother didn’t pay attention to the child for a split-second (or possibly a good few minutes), does it make it all her fault? Is it OK for animals to die because it was in fact a human mistake to begin with? Where does zoo’s responsibility in terms of safety and precaution begin and end? Would we react differently if the child was our own or of someone related to us?

Gorilla-Shuja Rabbani Blog Image

People who claim the mother needs empathy and not judgement from the public seem to believe that ends justify means – which itself is hardly an empathetic approach in this situation because it ended in sacrifice of one life (in this case an animal) to spare that of another (a human life). Being on top of the food chain seems to have made humans believe that a human life will always be more important than that of any other living things in our planet – we kill animals when they’re held captive and pose a threat, but we also kill animals when they’re free and pose a threat. We kill animals in land and in sea for survival and for pleasure. Examples range from rich people hunting for pleasure to the skinning pf animals for handbags and shoes in the fashion industry.

This is not the first and it certainly will not be the last case of a human ‘mistake’ with animals in captivity. It’s just one of those times when you have to ask yourself what you would do if you were in that very same situation?

Perhaps the human sense of ethics and morality changes according to the situation we are put in. If that is the case, then – is there such a thing as right or wrong?

 

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