The killing of escaped lions and tigers and bears in tranquil Ohio should make us wonder about our relationship with animals which cannot be tamed.
Grim fate for animals
A wave of sadness washed around the world this week with the news from in Muskingum County, Ohio, in the US heartland. News photos revealed the pathetic spectacle of a rural landscape crowded with wild-animal cadavers, after an eccentric farm owner liberated his menagerie and then, authorities say, killed himself.
The animal death toll included 18 rare Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, two wolves and a baboon. A few more beasts were still at large and being hunted by authorities.
It is difficult to blame the late Terry Thompson for collecting the beasts. Throughout history, people have been fascinated by animals, and have found ways to keep them in captivity. Over the centuries some have proved wonderfully useful, while other remain unbiddable but are magnificent and awe-inspiring. All can be endlessly fascinating.
But while Thompson broke no laws, we can still ask about the wisdom of keeping truly wild animals in tame surroundings. The same issue has arisen in this country over cheetahs in captivity and also over reports of exotic-animal smuggling.
Many animals require protection from humans, but that protection should consist of spacious reserves of untouched habitat, not undersized enclosures where our enjoyment comes at the cost of cruelty - and risk.