‘Dicks out for Harambe’ and other ways humans constantly disrespect other species.

The misrepresentation of animals in the media has led to misinformed conclusions about animals and their credibility. Anthropomorphism is the act of attributing human characteristics to inhuman organisms and objects, expecting them to act and react the same way humans do. In the case of animals, due to the species difference there are different hormones and characteristics exhibited in animals humans are unable to understand through simply observing them.For example, Apes and gorillas have been depicted with human like characteristics in the media for years.
Movies like ‘King Kong’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’ have inaccurately represented the connection these animals appear to share with humans.
An example of this detached reality is the reaction to the tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo last year where a young boy fell into a gorilla enclosure. As a result the zoo keepers chose to shoot and kill the gorilla called Harambe. At first there was empathy towards the gorilla, with people claiming the zoo reacted too brashly and indeed did not need to kill the gorilla. The boy’s mother was investigated for neglect and was cleared of any wrongdoing. What happened to Harambe was a tragic accident where an innocent gorilla and a curious little boy met in unusual circumstances, which ended traumatically. The internet jumped onto the controversy surrounding the tragedy asking if there was anything which could’ve been done to prevent this and save Harambe. Although the commentary was hijacked by trolls and people making fun of the hype leading to Harambe the gorilla being metastasized into a meme. Hashtags reading ‘dicks out for Harambe‘ and millions of memes were generated, essentially making fun of the hype surrounding the death of the gorilla.
I find this incredibly disrespectful, say for example the little boy had died instead of the gorilla, it is very unlikely people could react to a human’s death with such a joke.
So why is this different for a Gorilla? Where is the respect for life? What is it that detaches human consciences from the animals represented in the media?
Dr Sarah Bexell from the University of Denver notes that;
” Humans are big-brained, invasive and omnipresent mammals who seem to think they can do almost anything they want. Individuals in most cultures claim to love nature and other animals but then go on to abuse them in a multitude of ways. Clearly our relationship with the rest of the world is a very confused on and our actions are often contradictory and paradoxical. “
I agree with this statement. There are so many people who would do anything for their pets but continue to eat meat and go to zoo’s and circuses. The human relationship with animals is a very difficult balancing act. We claim to know what’s best for animals but all we know is what has been observed externally not what they are actually thinking and feeling as we have no means of direct communication.
The groundbreaking documentary played at the Sundance Festival in 2013, ‘Blackfish‘ challenges humans to reassess their relationships with animals. Focusing on the Orca called ‘Tilikum’ who lived the majority of his life in a pool at SeaWorld in America, the documentary explores how little we actually know about these highly intelligent animals. Tilikum ends up killing a very experienced trainer in a performance in front of a live audience. However interviews with the trainers’ colleagues show that even though she was killed by the killer whale, they don’t blame the mammal due to the horrible conditions and psychological trauma experienced by being held at SeaWorld.

Tilikum, the killer whale who killed a trainer during a performance, who lived at SeaWorld for the majority of his short life. 

Our unnatural relationship with animals is widely accepted and not questioned enough. This leads to animals being abused and manipulated to fit into the human world the way we need them to. If the situation was reversed humans would not take to it so kindly and neither should animals. Animal welfare groups such as PETA constantly fighting for the rights of any living species sometime use controversial tactics leaving them facing backlash. However people are so quick to place the blame something else before admitting that their behavior may be problematic and they are part of the problem.
Peace and fair treatment for all big and small.


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