Several people have asked me to comment on the incident in Ohio in which Terry Thompson was found dead and his animal loose.
I cannot meaningfully comment on what occurred: I just do not have enough verifiable information. Certainly the timing of the event (in the middle of a huge battle in Ohio about whether or not exotic animals should be banned), and many of the reported details—cages cut open when Terry had a key, and raw chicken piled around his body—sound suspiciously like animal rights zealots killed Terry staged it to look like a suicide. But then, he was also in financial trouble, with a history that suggests mental instability, and was having legal and familial problems, so suicide certainly is possible. I just cannot comment about what really happened…
What I can say is that while exotic animal ownership is an important topic worth discussing (and one that has been discussed on this blog many times), this incident had absolutely nothing to do with that topic.
Even if we assume that Terry committed these acts himself, it is the story of a mentally unstable man with a criminal history who went insane, ran amuck and loosed his animals, and shot himself. This is very sad on many levels, but has nothing to do with animal ownership. He could just as easily have killed his children—would we then be talking about banning children? He could have driven his car into oncoming traffic—would we be talking about banning cars? Could have poured gasoline on himself and ignited it, would we ban gasoline?
I have said it time and again, and will undoubtedly say it many more times: it is counterproductive to look at the few outlying worst cases within ANY activity and draw conclusions about that activity. The bottom few percent within ANY group are awful, and that includes animal owners just as it includes parents, college students, drivers, etc. We cannot draw meaningful conclusions about the activity, or create effective regulations, by focusing on these aberrant cases.
If you are moved by what happened in Ohio, then by all means address yourself to the correct issue: how can we help mentally ill people get the help they need? Or even, how can we help people who are deeply in debt and see no way out, or have lost their family and feel hopelessly alone, see that there are better solutions than rage, aggression, and suicide?
But if you want to talk about the important topic of animals and their relationship to man in the modern world, we will need to do so another time—a time when people have not been whipped into an emotional frenzy by animal rights zealots seeking to use this incident to inflame sentimentality and obscure reason so as to achieve their own longstanding agenda of creating laws to prevent reasonable and sane individuals from keeping animals. That topic cannot be illuminated by focusing on rare cases in which individuals behave in a manner that can only be deemed insane.
That said, there were a few interesting secondary observations possible during the media storm:
- The media is dysfunctional. They leap to conclusions and present the information that supports their conclusion while ignoring all else. They are unimaginative and largely incapable of rigorous thought. How many of them seriously considered the POSSIBILITY that this incident was staged by an animal rights zealot? Even though it occurred in a state where exotic animal legislation has been a huge fight recently (and in which the animal rights position was losing until this event, after which they will unequivocally win), even though AR zealots are constantly proclaiming their desire to orchestrate exactly such incidents, even though the cages were cut, and raw chicken was piled around Mr. Thompson’s dead body, pretty much no media outlets even seriously entertained the possibility that this could have been a staged murder.
- There is a ridiculous tendency to assume that anyone who owns exotic animals is, ipso facto, insane. This prevents real discourse from occurring. If you assume the group is insane, of course nothing they say, no matter how true , rational, or persuasive, can ever sway you.
- Jack Hanna is always able to raise the bar on uninformed and ignorant thoughtlessness.
- Wayne Pacelle is always able to raise the bar on megalomaniacal, solipsistic evil. Whatever events occur, he can find a way to look at them solely from his narrow perspective and twist whatever truths may be present to fit his agenda.
- There are a huge number of well-intentioned people in this country who have very little animal experience, but have made up their minds that “wild animals belong only in the wild” and are unable or unwilling to set aside their preconceptions and authentically discuss and consider the issue. If you have little experience, take some time to speak with those who have genuine experience BEFORE formulating your position.
- There are a huge number of people in this country who have no genuine understanding of the animal rights agenda, the core values of HSUS, the stated willingness of the AR extremists to kill or do whatever else is needed to get their way; and who are essentially unaware of the entire war that is being waged between responsible animal owners and those who seek to eradicated all animal “use.”
- Time after time, those who oppose wild animals in captivity have argued that the danger, if ever one of these animals got out, is so great that it should never be risked. Of course, escapes are SO RARE that it is hard to evaluate the merit of their assertion, but here is a case in which 49 of the most dangerous animals on the planet were intentionally set free, and how many people were eaten? How many children carried away? How many pets even harmed? ZERO. Heck, they did not even consume the body that was lying there… This of course does not mean that, given more time these animals would not have caused harm, they almost certainly would have, but perhaps it suggests that they are not quite the dire immediate threat that has been alleged.
Everything that happened that day in Zanesville is sad, and there are undoubtedly many lessons to be learned from the events if we ever truly know what happened. But this was not a story about animals escaping, or about wild animals being unhappy or unhealthy in captivity, no matter how much some people want to twist it into such a story. It is the story of a person losing his mind and behaving irrationally, and that is not an appropriate basis for discussing unrelated issues.