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This antelope won’t get the attention of Cecil or Harambe

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It’s hard to nail down what makes one slain animal a celebrity, and what makes one just another body on the pile.

The Telegraph reports that an antelope broke down a fence and escaped from the Paignton Zoo, and was subsequently put down following a police hunt. 14 armed officers were dispatched to protect the people of a neighbourhood the antelope was believed to be running through. Police sergeant Jon Kerridge-Smith told the Telegraph that “local officers arrived and established that the antelope was contained in a garden, lying down and watching the world go by.” The animal was tranquilized, transported, and later put down by veterinarians at the zoo.

In a statement, the zoo said: “Following a full assessment, we have decided to put the animal to sleep as it would have been impossible to return the escapee to the herd, or find a suitable new home for him.” The policies that were enacted by the owners of this animal aren’t new, and are completely within the realm of legal abilities of zoos like it. Was a new enclosure, or retirement to a sanctuary possible? Sure, but not where profits are concerned.

In all stories like this, it’s a matter of imprisonment and domestication getting in the way of animal instinct. Likely, this antelope would have had no issue running from their herd and finding new refuge in the wild. But without cellphones capturing every heart breaking second, people won’t devote too much of their Facebook time demanding reparations for this unnecessarily lost life. In the totem poll of animal preferences, Harambe would be like killing a dog and this antelope is about as ignored as a chicken. 

Unlike killing Cecil, who was deemed innocent, our society has a clever way of compartmentalizing the good and bad of animals and their actions: it’s also speciesism. In captivity, breaking out or damaging property is considered bad behaviour. Having horns that could hurt a human means they are dangerous. Not getting along with the others they are forced to live in close quarters with is reprimandable. Even if this antelope had gotten to live out it’s life behind bars, they didn’t stand a chance because it’s not deemed important enough.

Rather than addressing the killing of one publicized animal, or the actions of one group of zookeepers, we need to make the connection that all animal use is wrong. They are not ours to be imprisoned, monetized, and disposed of at the sign of complication. If we care about Harambe, about Cecil, and about the animals that perish in zoo systems everyday, we need to go vegan and help people do the same. All animals are deserving of their freedom from exploitation. It’s not about attempting to shout louder for each individual animal, it’s about recognizing that veganism means working to save them all.

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