Posted by: atowhee | June 1, 2016


It seems your zoo’s boss and his staff are engaged in factory farming of gorillas.  In mass production agriculture the animal is seen as strictly for the use and profit of the “owner.”  There is no need to recognize modern science that continues to discover and explain the complex mental and ethical and social lives of many of our fellow creatures.  One would hope a zoo would have some staff members that have evolved beyond the archaic belief that animals are just mechanisms with no feelings, value or purpose besides pleasing or feeding mankind.  Further one would hope zoo personnel would not see their prisoners as simply machines to please the public.   If you are going to incarcerate animals there should be an attempt to train their jailers in how various animals think, behave and feel.

It is appalling that the zoo bureaucracy immediately began to obfuscate and lie to explain their actions.  Your zoo manager deliberately misrepresented what Jane Goodall said in her letter.  The Cincy Zoo now seems to be deeply invested in gorilla farming.  Are the animals themselves seen just as other farmers view their milk cows, race horses or pigs?  No patina of conservation can excuse the imprisonment of animals on the scale of modern zoos.  .

Your unwarranted execution of an incarcerated gorilla is no more morally justified than the widely condemned murders of prisoners by ISIS and other terrorists.  There are animals that can and occasionally do kill humans: lions, cougars, grizzly bears, some crocodiles, pigs, dogs.*  I have failed to find a single instance of a confined gorilla killing a human, even when provoked.  Did you have anybody on duty who knows the least bit about the psychology and behavior of gorillas beyond their diet and breeding habits?  Were the men with the guns trained in anything more complex than marksmanship?  In all police departments—we see too often—there are those who are eager to use a weapon after all that training.

The behavior of your organization is just further proof of the moral bankruptcy of the whole concept of a zoo where innocent, helpless animals are imprisoned for the fun and supposed pleasure of ignorant arrogant humans.  The zoo itself is an outrageous extension of 19th Century values into a time when we humans know a lot more about animals and their complex lives.  This is a time when we humans are already trashing the planet with our excessive consumption of finite resources and fueling climate change.  We owe our fellow creatures a fair deal.  Gorilla lives matter.  Do we breed human children and then lock them up from birth to death for the entertainment or profit?  Why do we think we have the right to do that to other living creatures?  Because of some ancient superstitions that grew up long before we finally began to recognize the consciousness and emotional lives of other creatures?

There are 7 billion humans on earth and perhaps 175000 western lowland gorillas surviving.  That means a lowland gorilla is 35000 times more precious to the planet than a single human.  If you further consider that it is largely human activity that is currently speeding up climate change and thus endangering not just fellow humans but many species including gorillas, the actual worth of a single human being to the planet drops further.   We Americans have an especially heavy burden of responsibility because we are world leaders in greenhouse gas emissions per person and are doing more than our share to endanger and destroy much of the planet’s biosphere and life forms.  Any fair-minded human should thus be at least 35000 times more outraged at your gorilla execution than any execution by ISIS.  Clearly we humans are going to out-live the gorilla and many other species that we are pushing toward extinction with callous unconcern and greed.

Your organization needs a thorough re-orientation if you insist on continuing to run an animal concentration camp.

Here is link to interview with the man who helped bring the killed gorilla into this world.  It will not make you feel any better about what has happened.  The human “father” loved this gorilla.

Here is complete text of Jane Goodall’s letter to the Cincy Zoo director, not in any way approving of the killing:

“Dear Thane,

“I feel so sorry for you, having to defend something which you may well disapprove of.  I tried to see exactly what was happening – it looked as though the gorilla was putting an arm round the child – like the female who rescued and returned the child from the Chicago exhibit.

Anyway, whatever, it is a devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas. How did the others react? Are they allowed to see, and express grief, which seems to be so important.

Feeling for you,


Click here for list of books on animal emotion and intelligence.  And this site doesn’t seem to include ASre We Smart Enought to Know How Smart Animals Are?  It’s a new book I’ll be reading soon.



  1. ‘Animal concentration camp.’ I will do my best to press that into the english argot.

  2. I agree. Cincy zoo should give up on gorilla keeping. Nothing anyone could have seen in the video showed a threat to the kid. What a shame!

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