Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Expanding Circles

One of the stories making headlines in the past couple of days is about a tiger escaping from a zoo and killing a person.

I think the question screaming at us here is: Is it ethical keeping animals caged in zoos, away from their natural environment, just for our mere pleasure? I realize that many people think of hunting/caging animals as no big deal. But to put in perspective, 200 years ago, hunting/caging/enslaving people of races supposedly "inferior" to your own was no big deal either. Case in point, check out this instance which seems utterly horrifying today: In 1906, an African man from the Belgian Congo was caged with an orangutan at Bronx Zoo.

Thankfully, things are improving in the long run. Check out Amit Varma's column on "Expanding Circles", a concept first introduced by WEH Lecky in 1869: .
Lecky wrote that the number of people we consider worthy of our moral consideration has expanded through history like a circle. “At one time,” he explained, “the benevolent affections embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a class, then a nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity and finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal world.”

I'm glad that we have come a long way since 1906. And I'm sure with the global boundaries falling fast, we will continue on this path for a long time to come. We just need to be aware of the bigger picture and do our bit to keep the circles of sympathy and benevolence "expanding".

Update: A similar incident.
As an aside, the article is pretty poorly written, which is surprising coming from the BBC. "The dog was destroyed....."?? And how about "The death follows the unlawful killing of five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson who was killed by her uncle's dog......". Unlawful killing by a dog?? You gotta be kidding me.