I came across a cartoon that not only reminded me of a previous case but also displeased me for the inconsistency of the message delivered in it.
This cartoon is only one example illustrating the common reaction we got from what happened with Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinatti Zoo and how the media handled the story. The cycle repeats itself in an utterly predictable reaction like the one we got from the story of Cecil the lion.
The point of this post is to comment on the reaction to this story, which is to compare it to another tragedy, the migrants’ crisis (or any other human crisis). Don’t get me wrong, I’m empathetic to what’s happening to them not only because my family from both sides fled wars (I also have refugees in my family as well), striving for years to stay away from wars’ atrocities, but also because it’s very human to care about it, that obviously goes without saying.
However does being outraged about this human crisis mean I’m insensitive to animal rights? Definitely NOT.
I capitalize and emphasize on that point, because these are DIFFERENT fights, like apples and oranges. When I read and see how a lot of people react to the talks about Cecil the lion or Harambe the gorilla and the questions raised around their deaths, by saying we don’t care about refugees or humans’ lives, let me say this.
First point: media has been covering the war in Syria since the start, especially in Europe, until now, following the migrants’ harsh traveling, giving most of the details they can get, even embarking on boats with them (I can’t count how many journalists did that). News are pretty much covered on this side, but not only. There are documentaries, analysis, debates, and so on and on… So saying it’s not covered is very easy and low to say. Now I know that American mainstream media are lax in covering this kind of news efficiently, but that’s another story.
Some will say that this cartoon depicts the newsroom in the States, just want to remind you that there were similar talks and reactions in Europe as well regarding Cecil, from the media and some citizens.
So once this said, what’s in it for you if a lion or a gorilla gets a few attention for a few days compared to all these years of covering the migrants? More information? More awareness? How are these considered negative points?
Some are shocked by the outrage on social media, tweeting about a lion or a gorilla instead of tweeting about refugees. I invite you to check the thousands and thousands of tweets on migrants that prove the contrary. Also there’s nothing wrong about debating and finding solutions to protect endangered species!
I was so glad we finally get to talk a bit about a fight that’s been going on forever and that no one really covers! Species disappear every year, like the western black rhinoceros and the baiji dolphin, who covered it, who was outraged? Don’t they deserve to be on the news? Aren’t these reactions close to being kind of fascist?
Second point: Comparing different fights. Really? Like I said, it’s exactly like comparing apples and oranges and debating which fruit deserves more of your attention.
If we want to call ourselves humans (and not hypocrites), we fight against any form of violence against sensitive beings, we fight against cruelty, we fight for the voiceless, whether it is human or animal. We all live in an ecosystem we completely depend upon, we need the animal world, it’s not a joke, no well-respected scientists will say the contrary.
What’s the next comparison? Dog meat festival in Yulin and violence against women?
These reactions are passive aggressive, by allowing ourselves to compare suffering we are truly hypocrite and insensitive. If we allow this violence to exist by silencing it, we’re not different from the people who kill and make these creatures suffer. What’s the difference between this gorilla and our pets really? Can we shoot our pets so easily?
If your dog or cat is dead and you’re sad about it, would you appreciate it if someone tells you it’s not important because migrants are suffering and people are starving in Africa?
Some ideas are out of place at a certain moment. Everything is important, it’s just a question of how and when you talk about serious matters.
So let’s just stop this nonsense comparison and focus on real fights instead of diverting our attention to trivial outrage. Let’s just focus on how to make the world a better place for all living beings, not just a selected few.
For animal lovers, use your outrage to raise awareness around you, donate to wildlife conservation, tell your loved ones not to go to zoos and aquariums promoting shows with sea creatures, tell them not to buy products promoting the kill of magnificent animals like elephants and rhinos. Consumerism is what makes all this business flourish in the end. And we can stop it only if we want to.
- Outside Online: What Cecil the Lion Can Teach Us About Harambe the Gorilla (and How to Turn Your Anger Into Something Useful)
- Daily Nation: Zimbabwe bemused by world reaction to killing of Cecil the lion
- Alternet: The Bigger Story Behind the Killing of Cecil the Lion That the Media Overlooked
- Scientific American: 2015: Deadliest Year Ever for Rhinos
- Mother Nature Network: 10 animals presumed extinct in the last decade
Cartoon by Sack for the Star Tribune, Harambe the gorilla, Cecil the lion, western black rhino, baiji dolphin, journalist Martin Weill with the refugees for Le Petit Journal (Canal+), dog meat festival in Yulin 1 and 2.