Relative Value of Gorillas vs. Humans (Animal Rights)

Relative Value of Gorillas vs. Humans (Animal Rights) June 5, 2016


Photography by “Sommersprosse21” (3-9-13) [Pixabay / CC0 public domain]


I put up a meme on my Facebook page that read: “3000 babies are killed in American abortion clinics every day and nobody says a word. One gorilla dies and everybody loses their mind.” My (formerly evangelical Protestant) atheist friend Jon replied and we had a little chat. His words will be in blue.


Couldn’t you say this about anything, though? Christians are shutting down combox discussions. Why talk about that when 3000 babies died today? Someone bashed the pope? So what? 3000 babies died. Talk about that. Vandals defaced a memorial? Who cares Dave, get your priorities right. [he is citing recent posts of mine] 3000 babies died today. Let’s talk about that. Why single out people’s concern about our treatment of animals and act like that’s not worth talking about because of abortion?

Because it’s all out of proportion and insane: one animal vs. 3000 human beings. You say you are pro-life, yet every time I make a pro-life statement, you have to find some way to oppose it.

Pro-life is, of course, the leading ethical issue of our time, and so worthy of all the notice anyone can give it. It’s 9-11 every day. If the 3000 daily murdered were outside the womb, it would be front page news for a week.

Is the combox problem also out of proportion with abortion? Comboxes shut down vs 3000 human beings. Why are you talking about comboxes?

I gave a particular answer and a general one. What more do you want? At least I answer your questions . . . You’ll be late for church if we keep talking. :-)

Patti Sheffield (Catholic):  The use of this analogy is apt; the life of a single gorilla is seen as more valuable and worth getting outraged over vs. the lives of 3000 human beings.

As for the other comboxes, I have seldom seen Christians (or secularists for life, either) try to shut down discussions by raising the topic of legally aborted babies. The meme above isn’t trying to “shut down discussion”, but rather point out the skewed priorities of the internet mobs.

I guess I’d like you to address my point directly. When you say the gorilla and abortion are out of proportion this doesn’t address my point. My point is it’s legitimate to be bothered by the gorilla situation. Your argument here seems to be an attempt to deligitimize the sentiment simply because another issue is a bigger problem. But that same reasoning applies to a lot of your posts. I don’t think your posts are illegitimate because other issues are more serious.

It’s legitimate to be sad that a gorilla had to die. I am, myself. I’m a huge animal lover. It’s not legitimate, on the other hand, to value one gorilla’s life more than 3000 human lives, and that is what is demonstrated by the massive outcry. Things are all screwed up

And what is it that is objected to? The debate, as I understand it (I haven’t followed it closely at all), was whether the gorilla was trying to harm the child, or could be construed as likely to do so (based on expert opinion). If it was about to harm the child, it had to be shot. No controversy there.

Well, none, except for folks who value a gorilla’s life more than the child’s . . . By pro-abort logic, the child should have been allowed to be killed by the gorilla, because it is worth less. There are exponentially more human beings than gorillas, therefore they are worth far less (since being made in God’s image and possessing a rational soul is irrelevant in today’s “enlightened” secular Utopia). Supply and demand and “scarcity theory of value”, you see . . .

It’s one life weighed against the relative value of another, as in all diabolical pro-abort logic. If the choice is that we have to shoot the gorilla to save the child, or allow the gorilla to kill the child, so the gorilla won’t have to be shot and killed, pro-abort logic tells us that definitely we should save the gorilla and let the child die.

After all, that behavior is merely instinctual, whereas ours is quite calculated and deliberate. Which is worse? If we allow the greater evil, why not the lesser? So why in the world would we choose to let the child live when there are billions of children and only so many thousand gorillas?

Quite easy choice, by diabolical secular logic . . . Fortunately, this logic is still internally inconsistent in application. Infanticide isn’t yet here on a massive scale, but it soon will be, and rare animals will be even more protected than they are now, as time goes on.

Here’s what I think is being objected to. The fault here is of course with humans. We destroyed their habitats for profit, we then put them in a poorly designed zoo, we broached their enclosure and when it acted naturally in trying to protect us we shot it. It did drag the child but as I understand this was a protective action, possibly in response to people yelling.

Being bothered by this, maybe questioning some of the things we as humans are up to, I think that makes perfect sense. Even for someone who thinks abortion is worse. You object to all kinds of things that even for you aren’t as big a deal as abortion. Doing so is appropriate. Why are you singling out animal rights and saying that is the subject not worth the outcry? Animal rights is a serious issue regardless of abortion.

Thanks for the further helpful clarification, but again you miss my point. I have no objection to animal rights per se. Like I said, I love them and want to see them protected as much as possible. Our next-door neighbor has ten baby raccoons that she is watching over till they grow up, to be released back into the wild. We think that’s great.

I want to protect rare and magnificent wildlife (and old-growth forests) just as much as any ultra-liberal “environmentalist” does, and so do most conservatives (whatever the stupid stereotypes try to claim). I’m a conservationist.

I would also agree with you, I think, that it is preferable to maintain wild animals in as natural of a habitat as possible: such as places where one simply drives through and views the animals, rather than caged in a zoo. Perhaps there is a happy medium somewhere there. Sea World has decided not to keep killer whales anymore. If they have good reason for that, for the happiness of the animals, I am in favor of it.

I don’t want animals to be in any way treated with cruelty, when they are being prepared for slaughter, for food purposes. I think we can kill them for food, but we don’t have to subject them to cruel conditions, just so some business can make a bunch more money from it (my distributism and many objections to corporate capitalism as practiced comes out here).

I only object when animals are placed in the “hierarchy” of values and priorities, above human rights. That was the message of the meme: the death of one gorilla causes an avalanche of public outcry, but the death of 3000 human beings every day does not. That is bizarre and morally insane. There should be an outcry if even one human baby was slaughtered legally every day. As it is, it is 3000 + (just in America).

I don’t see how you could possibly object to that, as a pro-lifer, once you properly understand what we are saying. Patti expressed it very well. There is no longer any excuse for you to not understand the point.

I never claimed that no one could ever write about anything besides abortion: the most important ethical issue and outrage of our time, so that sidetrack of yours is a complete red herring. As you imply, obviously, I would be self-contradictory if I thought so, because I write about all sorts of moral issues and lots of other things, too (and thanks for reading and commenting).

Now, you raise a different point about how we treat animals, which is worthy of consideration but completely distinct from what the meme sought to express. As I said, I haven’t followed this closely, but I know that there is a disagreement as to whether the gorilla would have harmed or killed the child. At that point a calculation has to be made by experts in animal (particularly gorilla) behavior.

It seems to me, that if there is even a 1% chance of the child being killed, and there is no way to save the child but to kill the gorilla (not enough time or whatever), then we must do it, sad as it is. And we do that because even in our insane, bloodthirsty secular culture, that doesn’t give a damn about the lives of preborn babies, and doesn’t care at all about how much they are gruesomely tortured, and how much they suffer when they are murdered in cold blood, we still retain the Christian belief that human beings (at least if they are lucky enough to survive the womb without being mercilessly slaughtered) are above animals in the scheme of things.

Therefore, if an animal is likely to kill a human being, and we can prevent it only by killing the animal, we must do it. This comes down to expert opinion. Was there an expert on gorillas there who would know for certain that a gorilla would never ever possibly do such a thing? If so, and if they were absolutely sure (no doubt whatsoever), then I personally would go with their opinion. But it would have to be very very certain, because we can’t take that risk with a human life.

Whatever expert was present (if there was one at all) may have thought that there was, say, a 10% chance that the gorilla would become violent and/or kill. If so, that’s too big of a risk to take. It all comes down to expert opinion on the matter. But I think there were also lawsuit scenarios in play. The Cincinnati Zoo wants no part of a death on their grounds (least of all a child), and that probably played into it.

Are you claiming to be absolutely sure that the gorilla would never harm the child? If so, on what basis?

These are my thoughts, without having read much about the story.

I only object when animals are placed in the “hierarchy” of values and priorities, above human rights. That was the message of the meme.

Okay, but I don’t think anybody was doing that. I just assumed this was criticism of the kinds of things people are generally saying. If not that’s fine, but I think you are arguing with phantoms.

I haven’t read what they are saying, as I alluded to . . . But I do know that it is a huge story and lots of people are outraged about the death.

And they are, I would contend, because, clearly, our secular society values the life of rare animals much more than they do preborn human babies. Otherwise, we wouldn’t protect the former so much and allow the latter to be legally murdered day in and day out.

The meme was all about the relative outrage of the death of a gorilla vs. the daily death of 3000 babies. I don’t see how this was unclear in either the meme or my comments. Logically, even if outrage at the death of the gorilla was justified and perfectly proper and fine, there should still be much more outrage about the daily holocaust.

If the killing was justified as reasonably defensible as the only way to save the child, I think we can still be sad about it, as I am, but not “outraged”: because that presupposes that something wrong occurred.

Meanwhile, you ignored what I think is the central ethical (and practical) question as regards the incident: “Are you claiming to be absolutely sure that the gorilla would never harm the child? If so, on what basis?”

No, in fact I’m not criticizing the zoo personnel or the mother. But the whole thing does bother me. We have a systemic problem, not a problem that can be attributed to a certain individual. For profit we wreck environments and drive many species to extinction. Some species we try to preserve, and we end up in a position like we did here. The gorillas pay for our greed. That’s my problem.

I read that some sort of dignitary wanted to do something nice for Aquinas and they happened upon some birds being sold from cages. Aquinas asked if he would buy the birds for him and he did. Aquinas then asked that the cages be opened and the birds freed. He saw their wings and feathers and thought it was somehow immoral to block them from behaving in a manner that was fitting the design God had crafted for them. Not sure if that’s a true story, but I thought it was kind of cool and I feel similarly. We’re doing something wrong in the way we are behaving towards animals.

In that I know we’re in agreement.

Yes we are. And that’s nice for a change!

Related Article from a Fellow Patheos Writer:

Reflection on the Death of Harambe (Henry Karlson, 6-2-16)


Meta Description: Discussion with an atheist about the famous gorilla and child incident at a zoo, and the value of animal vs. human life.

Meta Keywords: Gorilla incident with child, secular view of human value, abortion, pro-life, life issue, animal rights

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