June 2nd, 2016 press release from the Green Party:
The killing of Harambe exemplifies the ethical and legal crisis of captivity. A 17 year old western lowland gorilla, Harambe was kept in an enclosure on display at the Cincinnati Zoo. Had he not been held captive in this capacity, he would not have been shot to death and a child would not have been at risk (whether the risk was real or exaggerated).
“I’m truly sorry for the loss to the Cincinnati Zoo family and the trauma the child and his family have experienced as well. I feel for the grief Harambe’s non human and human friends must be going through. Harambe is Swahili for pulling together. Let’s honor his name by pulling together to end the unnatural confinement of animals,” noted Craig Seeman, Green Party Animal Rights Committee Co-chair.
The sequence of events may cause some finger pointing regarding responsibility, but whether it was the parents who were negligent or the zoo’s lack of safety measures for improperly securing Harambe’s enclosure is irrelevant. While good emergency staff training might have prevented such a catastrophic outcome, this would all be moot if captivity of wild animals for the purpose of entertainment had not been permitted to begin with.
“Asserting the rights of animals and opposing their captivity in zoos is long overdue,” added co-chair Mary Lawrence. “Experts in the field of bioethics and animal behavior such as Barbara King, Lori Gruen, and Marc Bekoff concur with this point of view. Progressive social justice scholars also understand the intersectionality of this issue. Ending the exploitation and oppression of everyone, no matter what species, is what it means to have liberty and justice for all.”
That such captivity is permissible is due to archaic legal principles that non human beings, including highly intelligent and cognitively complex beings, are deemed property.
Because the Green Party believes that animal captivity for entertainment is ethically wrong and fundamentally exploitive, it should be prohibited. Non human primates should have the legal right to live freely or in sanctuaries only for medical rehabilitation or ecological assistance for endangered species, except when there are compelling reasons for captivity, such as a necessary species-survival plan.
It is imperative that the Green Party take a leadership role in addressing this crisis by demanding legislation that recognizes that sentient beings like Harambe possess basic rights that must be protected.