Over the past few years, especially on Facebook and other social media, I’ve noticed a number of animal rights advocates celebrating the death and suffering of humans involved in the direct abuse of animals. By direct, I mean actively involved in the animal agriculture, hunting or animals as entertainment industries, as opposed to paying people to do these things like most humans in the world. Some examples:
School of killer whales attacks and kills 16 crew members of a Japanese whaling boat (note that this story was eventually proved to be fake, but the reaction of animal advocates was still real).
And most recently, a man was crushed and killed by an elephant after it was shot.
Here’s the thing. I think publicly celebrating the death of any of these humans was silly for two reasons.
1) It could backfire and harm the movement. Humans are very suspect to existing stereotypes and will take any opportunity to validate them. If someone sees a vegan celebrating the death of a human, they might think ‘I knew it, those vegans love animals but hate humans’.
2) Why celebrate the suffering of any living being? Yes, this individual caused suffering, and we should rightly be upset about that. But suffering is bad no matter whom it is experienced by. I think humans have probably less free will than they think they do. We don’t choose our genes, and we don’t choose our environment. Thus, people shouldn’t be held fully responsible for their good and bad choices. Can you be sure that you wouldn’t also have been a hunter if you were born into their exact situation?
But at the end of the day it just seems like a strategically bad thing to do.
After seeing much celebration and hate towards the hunter crushed by an elephant last week, I made the same warning. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed after this opinion piece was published, titled ‘When animal rights extremism exposes the worst of humanity‘. It uses such language as:
“As news began to emerge about the death of such a prominent hunter, animal rights activists around the world began a frenetic victory dance, joyously celebrating Botha’s demise at the hands of “his enemy” with a string of abusive postings on social media, some of them plastered across his Facebook site so his wife and children could view them.”
Very quickly, people in my network were sharing the opinion piece with comments such as “Did anyone else read this sad excuse for an opinion piece?” and “Haha what an idiot!!!!!!! Apparently it’s incomprehensible to him that hunters are killing an innocent being? Whole article can be summed up y ” I lack empathy towards animals and I don’t care about them dying.”“*
Yes, the opinion piece may have been exaggerated, and it sucks that people think that way, but they do, and that matters – we have to act accordingly. Even if you believe in 100% free will (which I think is hard to, given genes and upbringing as I mentioned) and think people are totally blameworthy for their actions, celebrating the death and suffering of animal abusers just seems like a terrible strategic choice. It might make you feel good in the short run, but in the long run it almost certainly hurts the animals we’re trying to protect.
* Original posters not credited to respect privacy, but if they wish I will edit the post.