It seemed like a scene out of bad cinema: A man jumps into the lions’ cage in a zoo and begins taunting them. The lions attack and do what they were made to do. In order to protect the now-mauled man, Zookeepers take down the lions.
Where does one begin?
First of all do lions really belong in captivity? The short answer is that no, they don’t, that living in an artificial habitat like most zoos provide drives them crazy, to despondency, to giving up their lionness. At the least lions and other wild animals should only be confined in large animal sanctuaries with lots of room to roam, feed and live as “natural” a life as possible.
Can you imagine what a treat it was, from the lion’s point of view, when an idiot jumped into their cage and drew their attention? Finally, a chance to get one of them who put us here. And he’s an idiot who shouts and waves his hands. That’s even better. Jump this dude. Show him his limits. He wants some lion? Then give him some.
But can you really imagine the deranged, half-witted motives of someone who would do that? Was he grandiose, thinking himself immune to lion prowess? Did he have to prove himself to, uh, his mommy, his big brother, his imaginary lover, himself? What could be worse and what I think is highly likely, is that this was suicide by lion. If he was rational, and we don’t know that he was, could he imagine any other consequence after jumping into the jaws of death?
And finally, the zookeepers. They got up in the morning and thought this was going to be an ordinary day in zoo paradise. It is their job to take care of and protect the animals. It is their job to protect patrons who come to look at them. They have protocols for handling life and death situations. It may mean protecting one of the humans from one of the non-humans.
But this was not a normal day at work. And if I was one of them instinct probably would have kicked in and I would be shooting whatever was going after one of my fellow homo sapiens. But should they have? It was fast and they had to act immediately. I’m in no place to judge but I wonder about distraction, drawing them away, tranquilizing them. All of these probably would have been too slow or ineffective to save the idiot human.
That leads to a larger question about humans and non-humans. Since humans created the zoo scenario in the first place and an idiot human chose to place himself in harm’s way, then why should lions be executed because of human foibles? The scales of justice are unbalanced from the beginning because we automatically favor the human over the non-human. Is there any question that under the circumstances the lions were innocent and the humans guilty?
Somewhere, sometime in a distant galaxy there is a zoo with humans in confinement. Curious creatures come and gawk and tap on the windows and make faces at them. The humans inside look sad and disinterested. Every so often the keepers slide some poorly prepared human food into their cells and expect them to be thankful. And then one day some ugly creature climbs over the barrier and drops in to visit the humans in their loneliness. The humans suddenly awaken. They look at one another and say, “Well, lookie here.” It didn’t take them a second to know what to do …
And then the zookeepers zapped the humans to death because they attacked the ugly thing that dropped into the cage where they had been imprisoned for their known lifetimes.