Monday, March 1, 2010
"On Wednesday, a female trainer at SeaWorld was killed when a 12,000-pound orca named Tilikum ("Tilly") grabbed her by the ponytail, dragged her under water, and thrashed her about in his jaws. Twenty audience members, lingering after a production of "Dine With Shamu," witnessed the act. It was the third human death Tilly has been involved in, and yet the park has no intention of euthanizing him, partly because his motives were unclear. Was his intent to kill, or was it an accident, the result of roughhousing with a mammal 1/100th his own size?"
What in the hell is this guy talking about? (You can read the rest of the article here) Can human beings extend their own morality to the animal world? At least, in the sphere of human-animal relations? Should an animal that kills a human be placed in the same punitive process as a gunman that kills a C-store clerk?
This isn't the first time or the first species to be involved in a human death incident. Dairy bulls have routinely gored and trampled careless farmers and continue to do so. When such an event occurs there always seems to be speculation about killing the bull. And that happens: Cumberlink Dogs kill people. Bears on rare occasions kill people. Horses can seriously injure or even kill people. It may be justified to kill the animal that has killed a human if, for instance, a bull that has gored a farmer refuses to allow anyone near the victim. But that's not what I'm talking about. Tilly hasn't leaped out of his pool and slid down the boulevard looking for people to crunch. It's impossible for him to harm anyone that doesn't get into the pool with him. So would killing him prevent the death of another human? Not realistically. He's not a threat to terrestial humans. Killing him would be punishment or retribution, neither of which makes sense to inflict on an animal that cannot share human values. Furthermore, if an animal injures a human, should they be held morally responsible? Should a horse receive some kind of punishment for throwing his rider or careening through a fence? What's the correct response to a dog bite? Imprisonment or a fine?