Why do people value the life of animals above the life of humans?

Updated on July 1, 2016

Harambe the Gorilla

On May 28th a little boy fell into the "Gorilla World" enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. It was a terrible accident that put the small boy in serious danger.

The exhibits resident ape, Harambe, was seventeen years of age. He belonged to the critically endangered silverback gorillas. He has now become an internet sensation and a rallying point for many animal enthusiasts.

After falling into the enclosure the child was roughly dragged through some water. The ape stood over him as onlookers screamed in fright. Many claim that the ape was taking a protective stance over the child while others claim the ape was agitated. Zoo personnel made the difficult decision to shoot and kill Harambe in order to protect the child. This has sparked outrage among thousands.

People are arguing that the ape should not have been shot. The consensus among many seems to be that a tranquilizer should have been used. The counterargument, which is legitimate, is that a tranquilizer would take ten to fifteen minutes to take affect. In that time, the animal could become more dangerous and pose a bigger risk to the innocent child. This is why Harambe was shot and not drugged.

How is it that as a society we can actually debate this matter? When did the life of an animal become greater than, or equal to, the life of an innocent human child?

Debate if the parents were negligent, the zoo liable, or the child stupid. Fine. The moment we begin debating that risking a child's life is ok just because we wish to do no harm to an animal is the moment we have thrown logic out the window and replaced it with foolish sentimentality. The lives of humans are most certainly worth more then that of an animal.

Jeanetta Riley
Jeanetta Riley | Source
Jeanette Riley & husband Shane
Jeanette Riley & husband Shane | Source

Pregnant Woman Killed by Police

Jeanetta was a troubled mother of four who was expecting her fifth child when she was shot and killed by police in front of Bonner General Hospital in Idaho. Admittedly, Jeanetta is not the type of character that garners sympathy easily.

Addicted to methamphetamine's and alcohol, about to be divorced for the second time, and homeless, Jeanetta was the type of woman that people look at distastefully.

Her history includes stabbing her first husband in the back, giving her newborn child up for adoption, and living out of a car. For sure, Jeanetta was a sad specimen of a human being. Despite all her flaws and shortcomings, Jeanetta's life still had value, as the lives of all people do. She was someone's daughter, wife, mother, friend. Maybe given time she would have turned it all around. Maybe not. Either way, she mattered. She was loved and is now missed.

It is insane that her death barely made headlines but the shooting of Arfee the dog managed to cause a national uproar. It is as disgusting as it is perplexing.

Jeanetta became depressed after drinking alcohol on July 8, 2014 . She started saying she was going to harm herself and others. Her husband drove her to the nearest hospital. Once parked on the road outside of the ER Jeanetta pulled a knife out from beneath her car seat. Distraught, her husband ran into the ER and told the nurse what was occurring. The authorities were notified and arrived shortly thereafter. Within 15 seconds of the cop's arrival the pregnant 35 year-old, who was only five feet tall and less than 100lb, would be shot dead. Her encounter with the officers occurred in barely 15 seconds. There was hardly mention of the incident. Nobody screamed for reform or wanted the police officer's jobs. The death of a pregnant woman with mental health and addiction issues barely went noticed.

Nearby, in Idaho, on that same day, 45 miles south of where the incident with Jeanetta occurred, Craig Jones parked his van at a nearby cafe so he could enjoy some breakfast. He left the windows cracked to keep his two-year-old puppy cool.

Police in the town had received calls that a suspicious white van was following children around. Craig's van fit the description. The cops spotted the parked vehicle and approached it cautiously as the windows were tinted. Craig's lab mix, Arfee, began barking and suddenly lunged out of the window, startling the officer. The dog was shot and killed. This made national headlines, led to revisions in police policy, and even led to the officers pay being cut.

How is it that the death of Jeanetta Riley went without any type of real public outrage but the shooting of Arfee the dog led to such extreme measures being taken?

How is it we value the lives of these animals over that of humans? For the pessimistic among us, let's say Jeanetta would have never turned it around, that she would have gone on to live life as a troubled addict, but what about her innocent unborn child? I also posit that even if the troubled mother of four never saw the error in her ways, the life she had was still worth more than that of a dog.

Empathy With Dogs Stronger Than With Humans

At the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association a study was presented which reflected that people feel more empathy towards dogs than towards humans.

Jack Levin, the Irving and Betty Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University, is quoted as saying, "The fact that adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full grown dog victims suggests that adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids."

Those involved with the study were given newspaper articles. They did not know the articles were fabricated. Each article had to do with either a puppy, human infant, adult dog, or adult human being beaten. After reading each article the participants had to rate the empathy and emotional distress they felt on a scale. Infants rated highest, followed by puppies, which were closely followed by adult dogs, then finally adult humans.

The study concludes that people have more empathy for abused puppies and dogs than they do for adult humans.

It is understandable that people would feel a great deal of empathy towards animals. They are vulnerable creatures capable of extreme intelligence and kindness. It is still a baffling matter that people would feel more empathy towards animals then people though.

This study is a perfect example of the way society as a whole has changed. I guarantee if this study took place one hundred years ago the results would not have been the same. Somehow, and in someway, people have begun relating less with one another and more with animals. This is not to say that animals should not be treated well and loved. The point that is paramount is that as a species we need to start valuing each other again and stop placing animals above people.

Should Harambe Have Been Shot or Tranquilized?

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


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    • Victoria Kaufmann profile imageAUTHOR

      Vickie K 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      RTalloni, I completely agree. In this day and age of animation and cartoons we have lent animals a humanizing nature that usually does not exist. This most certainly can account for why we are seeing a spike of sentimentality towards animals, surpassing the empathy and compassion we hold for other humans even.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      A thoughtful read addressing an issue we should consider carefully.

      Anthropomorphizing animals to the extent we see it today is dangerous business for the human race. Connecting the dots on the effect of doing that in the context of a child's thought life is part of the answer to your question.

      People who do not mature in their thinking, but remain childlike, are extremely vulnerable to what comes next. For instance, see the plethora of articles on the professor that led students to marry the ocean. The levels of insanity in that picture are overwhelming. Parents (or the students themselves) are paying to have their thinking degraded, paying to keep them from growing up and living realistically.

      If a gorilla is a friendly cartoon guy like King Louie or the friendly neighborhood tape supplier, why wouldn't a little boy want to jump in with them? If animals are either like people or more important than humans, why not marry the ocean?


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