Thursday, June 2, 2016

On Harambe and Nonhuman Animal Resistance

Image: a male adult orangutan with wide cheeks and slightly matted red fur staring downward. Text at the top of the image reads: "An orangutan named Fu Manchu repeatedly escaped from his cage at the zoo using a key he had fashioned from a piece of wire. Every time his zookeepers inspected him, he hid the key in his mouth." (source)

(Adapted slightly from a facebook post)

CN: animal cruelty, racism

I know that animals are dying in unbelievable numbers in unbelievably cruel ways every day. Usually I don't get very caught up when a story goes viral of one losing their life. Yet, this story of Harambe being shot has made me incredibly depressed because almost everyone talking about it (except some of you on my list) is missing part of the equation. There are other pieces covering the racism aspect which should be read first if you read anything. I should also note that when MOVE was protesting the Philadelphia zoo one of many times (before their home was firebombed by the state and many of them died inside,) the police attacked one of their members and beat her so severely that she had a miscarriage. There are black folks fighting animal exploitation who don't need white folks to educate them, shame black mothers, or dig up criminal records of black fathers to displace blame from the zoo onto a child's parents.

A species that is almost gone forever was shot because of a place that held him captive for entertainment. Nonhuman animals have been resisting captivity forever. I am not saying Harambe was resisting in this moment. I am saying that Harambe and every other animal in the prisons we call zoos have a desire to be free. Those desires are always punished by death and/or reduced to the idea that animals are mindlessly responding to stimuli rather than a desire to communicate or fight back. Many years ago I had a blog where I kept track of news stories of animals fighting against their exploiters. I found multiple stories a day every day.

I think of Tyke the elephant who was shot to death in the street after being fed up with forced performances.

I think of Tatiana the tiger who was taunted by zoo patrons and killed for not taking it anymore.

I think of Kasatka, Nookta, and Tilikum the whales who resisted a life of captivity and reproductive exploitation.

I think of Fu Manchu (don't blame the animals for their appropriative names) who fashioned a key to escape his cage multiple times. 

I think of every mother dairy cow who has attacked the farmer for stealing her calves.

I think of every young bull who escaped the slaughterhouse to be hit by police cars and recaptured, and sometimes, just sometimes, made it to a sanctuary. 

I think of the performing monkeys taught taekwondo who used their skills against their captor.

I also think of the birds and fish whose bodies make resistance of human enclosures more difficult, but who have the same desires to be free of exploitation and imprisonment.

There are countless stories like this, yet exploiters continue to call them isolated incidents of confused animals. They do fight. They do plan. They do resist. They do escape.

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