Two Dead Lions, One Live Man: a Fair Bargain?

By | June 9, 2016 | 0 Comments


Hot lunch

Recently a naked man crawled into the lion grotto at the zoo in Santiago, Chile. Two lions began mauling the man, who was believed to be mentally ill. Zoo officials attempted to use tranquilizer darts, but they were too slow to take effect, so the lions were shot to death. The man is recovering. Many protested the zoo’s actions.
Meanwhile, a three-year-old boy fell into the gorilla grotto at the Cincinnati, Ohio, zoo. A 400-pound male gorilla grabbed the child by the ankle and dragged him around, with the child’s head barely above water. Zoo personnel felt the child was in danger and shot the gorilla. The boy was injured but is recovering. Many protested the zoo’s actions.


Gorilla “protecting” child

A headline trumpeted, “Murdered gorilla seen ‘protecting’ child.” No, animals are killed, not murdered. And no, the gorilla was violently dragging the child through the water like a rag doll. The naked man the lions’ den was mentally ill and hence not responsible, yet he was blamed. But blaming a three-year-old and his mother? Have they never seen a three-year-old? You turn away for a moment, and he’s into trouble before you know it.
Over 500,000 people signed a Facebook petition titled, “Justice for Harambe,” but no one knows the boy’s name – or perhaps cares to know it. His mother received obscene and threatening messages. This is a perfect illustration of the proverb: He who is kind to the cruel will in the end be cruel to the kind.
Let me tell you a story. Years ago, I was a teenager growing up in San Francisco. An older cousin moved to town from the Midwest. As a treat, I took him to the zoo, the first he had seen. We visited the lion house, a concrete building with several cages that opened onto grottoes outside. It was still early, and the animals were inside.
As we watched the majestic beasts, a keeper arrived and opened the gates to the grottoes. Most of the lions and tigers went out to enjoy the fresh air. But one huge male lion with a magnificent mane remained lying in his cage. The keeper needed to clean the cages, so he shouted at the lion and waved his arms, but the lion was unimpressed. The keeper then took his broom handle and rattled it across the bars. At this the lion stood up, eyeing the keeper suspiciously, but he still refused to exit.
Finally the keeper got a water hose, turned on a powerful stream, and aimed it at the lion’s face. The lion let out a deafening roar that reverberated through the concrete building. But like most cats, he hated water and indignantly exited to the outer grotto.
Seeing a furious lion opening a mouth equipped with huge fangs, then roaring only 10 or 12 feet from us was quite an experience. But we had no doubt that the bars would restrain him. We trusted the zoo staff to maintain safe exhibits, where we could view dangerous animals – even angry ones – in perfect safety.
But things have changed.
● We see the world through a moral fog. We squander our sympathy on criminals, leaving too little for their victims. The lion grotto was designed to keep the lions in. The designers didn’t think they would have to keep people out. They didn’t foresee deranged persons trying to make friends with wild animals. They didn’t anticipate that as we lost the ability to see that some people act like wild animals, we would also lose the ability to understand that wild animals act like wild animals.
● We are inundated with lawyers. The first response of many people to an untoward event, whether an auto accident or a lion mauling, is no longer to say, “I’m sorry, are you all right?” That might look like an admission of guilt in a subsequent lawsuit. Instead, people remain silent or try to shift blame to the victim. In a prior incident, a tiger escaped from her grotto at the San Francisco, California, zoo and attacked three young men. It was rumored that the three young men were drunk, were throwing stones at the tiger, or even were using slingshots. The rumors were denied by police but had already taken on a life of their own on the Internet. Blame-the-victim is a popular game because it excuses us from the duty to protect the innocent or punish the guilty. It’s a game that’s fun to play − there are no rules, and it makes us feel good about ourselves while doing absolutely nothing useful.
● Did entering the lion grotto justify the death penalty? Many of the people who now condemn killing the lions to save the man’s life are same people who oppose the death penalty for convicted first-degree murderers. They claim that death by lethal injection − the same way we put beloved dogs and cats to sleep – is “terribly painful.” But being clawed and bitten to death by a two adult lions is a suitable punishment for mental illness? Really?
● Children grow up watching cartoon animals acting like humans. Recently a zoo reported that children demand to see “real” animals. They are disappointed that zoo animals don’t act like cartoons. Fewer children live on farms and come into contact with domestic animals. More children grow up in apartments and do not have pet dogs or cats. They are taught to love cartoon animals, not real ones. So if they see a real one, they may be disappointed or even mistreat it. Similarly, they grow up watching porn on cable and the Internet. They learn to be attracted to women, but not real ones. So if they see a real one with natural breasts or a slight bump in her nose, they may be disappointed and mistreat her. Loving ideal animals or ideal people isn’t really loving – it is a fantasy that can never be realized. It is narcissism: “I am perfect, so I am entitled to be entertained by perfect animals and perfect sex partners.”
● We have confused human and animal life to the point that we can no longer tell the difference. The hope was that this would lead to treating animals better, but in fact it has led to treating humans worse. Thousands of people across the world know that the dead lions were named Manolo and Flaquita. But how many people know that the severely injured twenty-year-old is named Franco Ferrada? A makeshift memorial was constructed for the lions. Would a memorial have been constructed for the young man if he had died? I doubt it. After all, “He got what he deserved.”
● Children are no longer taught that they are unique individuals created in God’s image. Instead, they are taught that they are animals like other animals. We believe we evolved through random mutations and differ from animals only in a few percent of our DNA. So we erect memorials for dead lions, and worry about the young man – whatshisname – only as an afterthought. Similarly, we erect memorials to the dead students and teachers at Columbine High School, and insist on including the two murderers with the victims. But when the father of one of the victims takes down the crosses of the two murderers, we protest and remove all the crosses.
Does “inclusiveness” mean including murderers with victims, and predators with prey? We can no longer distinguish murderer from victim, aggressor from defender, or animal from human. After all, we are only animals, aren’t we? So why not act like animals? And in many cases, we do.
Yes, a lot has changed since my cousin and I visited the lion house at the San Francisco zoo years ago. The animals are still wild, majestic, and beautiful. It’s we who have changed. We have become more wild like they are, but we are clearly not as majestic or beautiful – at least not outwardly. Our majesty and beauty are deeper. They come from a higher Source, and we have forgotten that.
And yes, if I had been in charge, I might have hesitated, because my heart would have told me to spare the beautiful lions and the gorilla. But I believe I would have listened to my mind and my conscience, which would have told me to save the more precious human beings. Of course, I come from a prior generation. I grew up in America when it was still a Judeo-Christian country.

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