City Journal Winter 2016

Current Issue:

Winter 2016
Table of Contents
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

Readers’ Comments

Theodore Dalrymple
Cruel When Not Kind « Back to Story

View Comments (30)

Add New Comment:

To send your message, please enter the words you see in the distorted image below, in order and separated by a space, and click "Submit." If you cannot read the words below, please click here to receive a new challenge.

Comments will appear online. Please do not submit comments containing advertising or obscene language. Comments containing certain content, such as URLs, may not appear online until they have been reviewed by a moderator.

Showing 30 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
Members of the public who smile on "gender reassignment procedures" are both sentimental and brutal toward the same mentally ill people.

See Richard Fitzgibbons's "Gender Identity Disorder in Children" and "The Desire for a Sex Change." Both online. This madness must end--if it takes a civil war.
this is horrible
I'm an unshakable Dalrymple fan, but the premise that people who are angered by self-serving cruelty to animals have no right to reciprocate that anger towards the perpetrators as it’s somehow detracting from the kindness professed by their leanings is nonsense.
Common we are all human after all, why are vegetarians or other ethicists exempt from feelings of anger?.
The basic tenet here is that the zoo had its larger interests at heart, which include operational viability, idiotic legislation and other human created imperatives which precluded the callous destruction and public dismembering of a large benign animal.
Children might be unwise to the ways of the adult world but I would suggest their response was spot-on…horror!
Sorry Eugene, there is no "Moral nuance" here. As you said, we kill for meat. The giraffe was a surplus animal. It was not wasted. It was thoroughly used as both a learning tool and as food for other animals. If the giraffe had not been killed in public, several cows would have been killed in a slaughterhouse somewhere to provide the same amount of meat to the lions.

This is very similar to my feelings about eating a rabbit that I shoot in the field, versus the feelings if I had killed and eaten my pet rabbit instead of taking him to the vet to be euthanized. My FEELINGS prevented me from eating my pet, but those are not morals. If someone else had bought that same rabbit as a bunny and raised him for food, the same rabbit would have been killed and eaten with no moral objection (except from the vegan crowd, and that is a different argument).

The zoo staff may have missed the public relations nuance, but not moral. Morals are based on ethics. If morals are based on feelings, they are not really morals; they are simply shallow postures.
I would like to offer a bit different view on the same subject. Please forgive the length.

It has been already two months since the giraffe was killed—it’s time to move on—but there is something unsettling here, some bigger issue. The lions in the Zoo who ate his fresh meat did not think about where it came from, but we humans should.

It’s true, we too cannot be overly squeamish about killing animals. We kill them for food; we kill them for threatening our lives; we kill them even for threatening other animals or crops we want to eat. But in such killings there is at least some irrevocable need. However cute I may think the rabbit or piglet may be, if I don’t kill him, skin him, and fry his tender body, I will go hungry. Here I have a (literally) gut-felt reason for taking an animal life. (And even if I eat only vegetables, are they not organic life?.. Am I not killing something live still? Why are we created in such a way that we must destroy other life in order to maintain ours? We may never know.) But in addition to the basic need to satisfy our hunger, we are also equipped with an often-annoying instrument gauging our actions in terms of right and wrong. It is this instrument that nudges us to ask “Was this particular killing justified?” And when the news from the Copenhagen Zoo broke, this instrument in many thousands of people apparently went off scale. I think, very rightfully. For this giraffe was not killed to feed people or animals; he was not killed because he was a pest or endangered others; he was not killed because there was not enough room or food to keep him alive. He was killed for an idea.

“Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes,” said Bengt Holst, scientific director. “It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space…We have to ensure a safe healthy population for the future.”

That it may be acceptable to take a life for “a greater good” or “a safe healthy population for the future” is an abstract idea that exists only in the minds of the scientists. Yes, they may be able through numbers and charts show us some statistical data why a diversified gene pool of the European giraffe population is preferable. But if we put next to their numbers and charts a living being, something inside us whispers “this being is more important.” Which voice we will listen to will determine how human we are.

The giraffe’s killing has demonstrated once again how deaf scientific thinking can be to moral nuances. Of course, we shouldn't expect science to be morally conscious; it's not equipped to discriminate between right and wrong. Science understands nature's laws which are repetitive and predictable as the rising and setting sun, but it quickly gets lost when faced with man's free will. Here, nothing is predictable and science is unable to accumulate useful data from previous generations—they grappled with the same moral issues of right and wrong just like we are, with no progress in sight. Which is why science may tell us how to fly to another planet, but it will never tell us how to conduct our affairs on this one. With Marius the giraffe, its insensitivity is on display: the scientific data can be solid, yet it leads to an immoral act.

There is no “greater good” and there is no “safe healthy population for the future,” Mr. Scientific Director is wrong on this. There are only individual lives—today—separate lives that each of us, humans and animals, live the best we can. And any idea advertising an abstract common good, a potential future benefit for whose sake a life is worth being sacrificed today is immoral in principle. The future generations will be as unhappy as all the previous ones, no matter what kind of genetic pool we will pass on them. But if today we don’t value life, what will we value? What will our morality be based on? On data about scientific expediency? On an ideology? It is a risky project to neglect the value of life as the guiding principle of morality. The bloodiest regimes in history—the French revolutionaries, the Russian and Chinese Communists, the Nazis and the North Koreans—have all been driven by ideologies promoting an imaginary greater good while sacrificing millions of real lives.

Once begun the thinking about achieving a greater good never stops. The same Zoo just killed four of its lions—and did it again for a brighter future. This act was necessary to establish “the foundation of the zoo's next lion era.”
This explains why the pro-abortion crowd is scared to death of requiring moms to observe their unborn children via an ultrasound before aborting them. Feminists are on the wrong side of technological and scientific advancement.

This is clearly driven by emotion - not logic. My hunch is that feminists would excuse the death threats aimed at the zoo staff even though the giraffe is not a human. By contrast, feminists delight in condemning those who make death threats against abortionists even though the unborn are human.
Dalrymple is a keen observer and right as usual - but he belongs to a majority as every other intelligent, well - educated Person and we will be all swept away by abominable tides of scum to come.
“Sentimentality always leads to the gas chamber.”

— Flannery O’Connor
Leonard Martinez April 11, 2014 at 2:27 PM
Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, like the time I broke up with my girlfriend way back when...but I'll spare you the details.
A, no, but we do now. Very few people live on farms, so that direct connection between food on the table and animal slaughter is not an everyday thing. We also rate movies based on their sexual/violence content Parents don't, or should not, discuss marital conflicts in front of children nor discuss financial problems with them. We have a respect for the innocence of childhood.
Yet despite whatever emotional studies may be had from reading this, I must say that I think one point has been overlooked. That is, the mindless reduction of living creatures to the ultimate utlitarian objects, in line with the aberrant thought processes of socialists and fascists from at least the time of Hitler, down to this day. The killing of an animal which is not sick, dying or suffering and beyond help, but merely because it is not useful ( or is a 'surplus' ) translates directly to the worldview concerning the unborn, the seriously handicapped and the feeble elderly.
Unrepentant Conservative April 11, 2014 at 5:35 AM
The test for those who claim to be animal lovers is for them to raise a cute, cuddly polar bear (or perhaps a grizzly) cub to adulthood in the confines of their homes and yards. Once they discover that large carnivores don't change their stripes and relish the taste of human flesh, they will likely be much less sentimental about animal rights.
"What is not stated is that we as a civilized society have traditionally shielded children from these things."

You mean to tell me that children living on farms were shielded from seeing the slaughter of animals a 100, 200 or 500 years ago? I would've expected the exact opposite. April 10, 2014 at 9:54 PM
Dalrymple is such an engaging writer.
This was a vulgar and tasteless thing to do -killing the animal in front of children. What is not stated is that we as a civilized society have traditionally shielded children from these things.
That was the point Walker Percy made in The Thanatos Syndrome when he had his mad priest say, You know where all this kindness and good feeling ends? It ends in the gas chamber.
Spot on as always. Sentimentality and savagery have always sat comfortably together. I recall a young French visitor to London in 1997, who picked up a small bear from the ridiculous pile of tat left outside the gates of Buckingham Palace following the death of Princess Diana. The response of a nearby 'distraught' Englishman was to punch him in the face for his callousness in taking the teddy. I doubt the irony of his behaviour ever dawned on him, or caused him one moment of serious reflection. The baying mobs outside courts are also a sure-fire indicator of the sentiments of those in attendance, as are the ludicrous viral 'this is terrible' type articles on social media. Although not the exclusive territory of those on the Left, sentimentality and brutality are more easily assimilated into a world view which regards people as victims and automatons.
Oscar Wilde got there ahead of you: "Sentimentality is the bank holiday of cynicism." Sentimentality, I have noticed, often appears in the form of sudden interest in "spirituality" (appearing just when the interested party is caught embezzling funds) or vegetarianism (when an excuse is needed to be mean to one's partner, it is so much more intriguing to think how that slice of meat on your plate used to have legs and walk.
Patrick MacKinnon April 09, 2014 at 9:17 PM
As I have said elsewnere, those who condone partial birth abortion yet get savage over the clubbing of a baby seal have some serious cognitive dissonance problems.
You should see a cage fight between cat lovers and bird lovers.

It's not pretty.

By the way, people here in Denmark didn't seem to find it shocking at all.
I was expecting Dalrymple to wholeheartedly support the zoo. I personally found it very refreshing that a public institution would do something necessary but unpopular without hiding it or squirming. Letting children see the reality of animal life is an unusual but very good idea. If if i had known about it in advance i would have taken my own children there.
There is a reason that laboratory animals are not named: people need to avoid becoming sentimental over them. Same is true of livestock raised for food - most are never named, and most that are named are saved for breeding. Sentimentality is a fact of human existence, and a zoo that names and then euthanizes an animal for no good reason is flirting with fire, even putting aside those defectives who are sentimental about everything but their fellow humans.
We must not over look the subtle but pervasive influence of ... Madagascar - The Movie ... who in god’s name could not emphasize with Marvin the poor neurotic specie confused giraffe and not respond in horror as his cruel death occurred before their eyes!!
We must not over look the subtle but pervasive influence of ... Madagascar - The Movie ... who in god’s name could not emphasize with Marvin the poor neurotic specie confused giraffe and not respond in horror as his cruel death occurred before their eyes!!
cruelly/sentimental? aesthetical SS in Hitll;erian Kitsch Kultur exemplied such behavior: weeping looting shooting folks out of hand, while collecting their family treasures. But then, there is Chaucer's Prioresse, who wears an amulet reading AMOR VINCIT OMNIA, feeds her lapdog with tidbits, cries if anyone strikes it...but tells a horrific tale: the Jews who killed Hugh of LIncoln, buried him in manure piles...and occasioned their expulsion from England a century and more earlier.
So what else is new?
All of this in the land of "lunch time" abortion...
Look at it this way: the people protesting feel that the authorities, from their august perches, are coolly indifferent to the sympathies that normal humans feel for a giraffe. That the authorities are probably just as clinically indifferent to the common run of humanity, and see them, numerous as they may be, as nothing more than giriffraff.

The angry and unfeeling rage expressed by "the masses" is the flip side of the cool and calculating indifferent lethality with which the "lords" seem to view maybe not just lesser and dispensable animals, but lesser and dispensable people.

What happened here would probably not have happened in a society in which people who reach high station normally grew up in the company of a wide range of folk, including ordinary folk whose gut reaction would be to spare the giraffes and the cubs and let the old lions die a natural death.

Charles Murray has a recent book on the "divergence" of the America, but of course it's not unique to America.
The Oracle of the Obvious Speaks!
Denmark is attempting to outlaw both Halal and Kosher slaughtering methods. there's a contradiction here.