You are aware by now that a 12,000 pound killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau yesterday by pulling her into a pool and dragging her around until she drowned, in front of a crowd of stunned guests.
Chalk another death up to animal rights insanity and to the ongoing failure of the West to take counsel on practical matters from the Scripture.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, "SeaWorld Orlando has always know that Tillikum...could be a particularly dangerous killer whale...because of his ominous history."
The Sentinel then recounts that Tilly, as he was affectionately known, had killed a trainer back in 1991 in front of spectators at a now defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia.
Then in 1999 he killed a man who sneaked into SeaWorld to swim with the whales and was found the next morning draped dead across Tilly's back. His body had been bit and the killer whale had torn off his swimming trunks after he had died.
What about the term "killer whale" do SeaWorld officials not understand?
If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone's misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.
Says the ancient civil code of Israel, "When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable." (Exodus 21:28)
So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn't know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.
But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn't kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, "the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:29)
If I were the family of Dawn Brancheau, I'd sue the pants off SeaWorld for allowing this killer whale to kill again after they were well aware of its violent history.
SeaWorld is apparently, however, unrepentant. Chuck Thompson, its curator in charge of animal behavior, says Tilly continues to be "a valuable asset not only from a breeding standpoint but from a behavior standpoint, too." Chuck might want to ask Dawn's Mom what she thinks about that.
Thompson did add, helpfully, "I think we need to evaluate his behavior and everything that's happened up to this point." You're about 19 years too late, Chuck, and the blood of Dawn Brancheau is on your hands.
It's been rather surreal to see my little blog post/column of Feb. 25 take on a life of its own, and become the subject of endless and hysterical rants in the blogosphere. In addition, I was contacted today for interviews by the Chicago Tribune (whose reporter told me she'd read about it on the Daily Mail in London), and by radio stations in Alaska, Seattle, and L.A. Plus I have been chewed out by numerous animal rights zealots either via phone or email.
What apparently gave the story some legs is that I was falsely reported as calling for the stoning of the killer whale, when of course I did nothing of the sort. I simply called for the animal to be euthanized, which can be done humanely and entirely without using rocks. I'm sure, for instance, that the veterinarians at SeaWorld have put animals down any number of times. Plus even if you wanted to stone a giant dolphin to death, I'm not sure exactly how you'd go about doing it.
Also, and likewise bizarrely, I have been reported as calling for the owners of SeaWorld to be stoned, which of course I did not do either. I called for legal action against them to hold them accountable for negligently exposing an employee to life-endangering risk. Perhaps this additional note will reduce the level of unhinged bloviating on the internet.
The simple truth is that this story is about the value we place on human life. In a Judeo-Christian worldview, a human being has infinite, eternal value while an animal does not. Because of the sanctity of human life, we ought to euthanize an animal which kills a human being so that it cannot kill again.
It's fairly routine to put a pit bull to sleep after it has mauled a child. There's no reason not to put a killer whale to sleep after it has killed a trainer. It might be worth asking my hyperventilating adversaries what they think should be done to a pit bull owner whose dog mauls a child to death but refuses to put it down, only to have it subsequently maul a second child.
Since Dawn Blancheau's life is equal in value to the life of a child, whatever my hissy fit friends think should be done to the owner of the pit bull should logically be done to the owner of the killer whale. I'll be happy to let them recommend suitable punishment.
In my blog/column, I simply extracted an underlying principle from the Exodus 21 passage and gave it a contemporary application. I made no attempt to apply it in a crudely literal fashion, which apparently is a great disappointment to my critics.
One unanticipated benefit of the mindless overreaction my blog has generated is that a lot more people know what's in Exodus 21 than did a week ago. I'm happy to serve humanity by increasing biblical literacy, one passage at a time.