The temptation is to find someone to blame when an endangered animal is shot dead at the place that is supposed to be his refuge. But the killing of Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, after a child somehow got into his enclosure, should not be reduced to simplistic diatribes against careless parents or trigger-happy wardens.
The expressions of unhappiness and anger surrounding Harambe’s death are misdirected if the focus is solely on the way his life ended. What should be more distressing is how his life was lived, in the zoo that held him captive.
Zoos are troubling places. When a beautiful primate can be extinguished simply because the entertainment value of its outsized life-force has been accidentally realized in real life, the contradictions of the institution are on full display. Yet zoos linger on in a world that is now much better positioned to see the harms and question the benefits that anachronistic animal theme-parks provide.[…]