In I can’t believe I have to say it: a human life is worth more than a gorilla’s, Dave Bry argues that the suggestion that an animal’s life has the same value as a person’s life is “insulting, terrible, wrong, and offensive.” By showing his inability as a human to empathize with the plight of animals, Bry unwittingly makes a compelling case against humans. His justification for elevating the value of human life over animal life is even more astonishing. Bry writes, animals “don’t have the empathy, the sympathy, the language, the particular and unique sort of love that we share with each other. These are powerful, important things about being a human being, things that I think a lot of human beings don’t consider enough.”
Or, as in the case of Bry–consider too much. Bry’s article is good fodder for satire but sadly he isn’t kidding. Even a cursory study of animals would help Bry–and others who share his myopic viewpoint–learn that animals empathize and show sympathy, feel pain and experience fear, speak their own complex languages, share familial bonds, and express love for each other. I agree with Bry that these are “important things” but they are not unique to the human experience. His lack of due diligence to understand the lives of animals is insulting, terrible, wrong, and offensive.
Bry’s Pollyannaish view of humans also fails to account for the many human shortcomings that animals don’t possess. Animals do not indiscriminately bomb, rape, lie, kill, steal, kidnap, abuse, transport, imprison, oppress, and terrorize for sport and profit. Regardless, the premise for Bry’s argument is a red herring. Instances where humans must make a choice between human and animal are rare. The more pressing question is, Why do humans breed, confine, abuse, and kill billions of animals for food every year when they don’t need to eat them to survive? Humans should use what Bry describes as their intelligence, empathy, language, and love to show real compassion for the most defenseless among us–the billions of animals languishing in factory farms. This porous idea that humans are so much more valuable than animals and therefore can slaughter them at will is a jaded notion that belongs in history’s trash heap.
Nobody wants to be faced with the moral dilemma of deciding to save an innocent child or a gorilla. But the more important question is, How did that child even wind up in that situation? Human greed and cruelty. Zoos shouldn’t exist in a civilized society. Rather than debating whose life is more valuable or of equal value, humans should focus on taking steps that avoid putting themselves in situations where they have to make such a decision. Cincinnati Zoo visitors wouldn’t have to leave flowers at Harambe’s cage if they would stop patronizing zoos.
To ensure we understand how little he values the life of an animal, Bry concludes his argument by declaring that even the lives of terrorists and genocidal maniacs–whom he mentions by name–are more valuable than innocent animals like Harambe. If intelligence and compassion determined right to life, as Bry argues they should, much of the human population would be decimated. In fact, using these metrics, Bry’s life would be at greater risk than the boy in Harambe’s cage.