The life of Dawn Brancheau, the SeaWorld trainer killed last week when a 12,000-pound killer whale named Tilikum dragged her to the bottom of his tank, might have been saved if only his owners had followed the biblical Law of Moses. At least that’s what Bryan Fischer, blogger for the American Family Association, thinks.
From the AFA’s blog, by way of Think Progress:
If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 [when he killed a trainer at the facility in British Columbia where he was held at the time] 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)
I love that he refers to an ordinance requiring the cruel stoning of an animal to death as the “civil code.”
But that’s not all Fischer has to say, because the ancient civil code of Israel doesn’t stop there:
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)
Fischer goes on for a few paragraphs after that, but isn’t specific as to which of Tilikum’s owners over the years ought to be executed alongside him. Should we kill the caretakers from the Victoria aquarium where Tilikum killed his first trainer in 1991, or only the gang from SeaWorld, where Tilikum also killed a trespasser who snuck into the tank in 1999? Aw, fuck, let’s just stone ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out! Better safe than sorry, that’s my motto.
In the cowardly fashion typical of zealots trying to pass among reasonable people, Fischer stops short of explicitly calling for the execution of Tilikum and his human trainers. He merely lays this barbaric bit of Bronze age morality on the table and stands back, with a wink and a nod, trusting the rest of us will take his meaning. That way, when he is inevitably accused by someone of publicly calling for the sort of punishments you don’t see much these days outside of Saudi Arabia, he can point out that he never actually said the whale and his owners should be stoned to death, that’s just what the Bible says.
This is the problem with received morality, especially when it’s received from a source as crude and brutal as the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Fischer and those who share his worldview accept rules like this because they were supposedly issued from the mouth of God, without stopping to consider whether or not the rules are actually moral. Of course there are instances when, unfortunately, for the protection of others, a dangerous animal has to be killed. But that doesn’t mean the death of the animal in question has to be as sadistic as a stoning. Only a society of barbarians would tolerate such a practice.
Bryan Fischer seems like the sort of fellow who could be perfectly happy in such a society. Besides not quite calling for the stoning of a killer whale and his owners, Fischer has also recently posted an article entitled “Homosexual agenda or the Constitution: take your pick because you can’t have both,” where he whines about Andrews Air Force Base rescinding an invitation to Tony Perkins, president of the bigoted Family Research Council, and compares Christians in the United States in 2010 to African Americans following the Dred Scott decision.
Whiny, ignorant self-pitying asshole with a persecution complex and absolutely no sense of perspective, context, or decency? You’re soaking in it.