June 2nd, 2016
By RedRover President and CEO, Nicole Forsyth
Given how easy it is to spread opinions across the Internet these days, I’m not even sure if the words below — in response to the recent tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo — actually came from Jane Goodall as reported, but if so, this response adds to the immense respect and admiration I already feel for her. In light of this tragedy, and also the lesser known tragedy about the veterinarian in Taiwan who committed suicide after faced with public backlash against her speaking up about the euthanasia she had to do at the animal shelter where she worked, I think it is important for anyone in positions of influence — the media, our leaders, our educators — to be asking, “Where is empathy?” The words below are important to share and remind me yet again how essential it is to cultivate empathy in our society.*
There is enough sadness and grief in the world. Let us not make it worse by forcing others to suffer alone, to create distance with our judgments.
The whole incident is tragic. I feel for Harambe, whose beautiful life was cut short due to no fault of his own. I feel for the zoo keepers who worked with Harambe day in and day out, knew him better than any of us on the Internet, and had to make an impossible decision in a moment of fear. And I feel for the family of the boy. We all have moments where we make a mistake or take an eye off a child for just a second, and I can’t imagine the complete horror and fear that befell this child’s mother when she saw her own child in an enclosure of a very intimidating wild animal. And I feel for the other gorillas who must be mourning the death of their friend, Harambe.
It is easy for us to sit behind our keyboards and raise our digital pitchforks about how horrible the mother was, or how cold-hearted the zoo keepers were…but where is the empathy and compassion and understanding? We are so quick to point fingers and judge, but none of us were there, in the stressful situation. Instead of hate and judgement, we should be spreading compassion over this sad and tragic incident. And I think, as a society that thrives on the Internet…I think we should do better. I think we can do better.
I know we can do better.
*To learn more about RedRover’s program and new e-book app to develop empathy skills in children, please visit RedRover.org/Readers.