Every so often an event relatively trivial in and of itself proves important as a marker of the state of our culture. The slaying of Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla, by officials at the Cincinnati Zoo, after a four-year-old boy accidentally fell into his enclosure, is one such event.

The zoo simply had no choice if it wished to protect the boy from serious harm or death. Harambe was holding him by the ankle. Though he had shown no hostility, the phenomenally strong, 400-pound gorilla could easily have killed the boy with no malicious intent. Shooting him with a tranquilizer would only have enraged him before putting him to sleep, and thus further endangered the boy. 

So the grim choice facing the zoo was between saving the boy and killing the gorilla, on the one hand, and sparing the gorilla and the quite possible death of the boy, on the other. There were no happy ending scenarios. 

To Mishpacha readers, no doubt, the choice is obvious. But it was less so to many others. Within a short time of Harambe’s death, a website called “Justice for Harambe” had gathered 300,000 signatures protesting the zoo’s actions. And the boy’s mother, from whom he had wandered away from briefly, was subjected to threats and numerous statements that she should have been shot instead.

FANATIC ZEAL ON BEHALF OF ANIMALS and a disdain for humans have long gone together. The British Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton observed, “Wherever there is animal worship there is human sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.”