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This month so far I’ve had two cases (both men) who shot themselves in the head.  It’s hard times out there.  People get sad and hopeless. People- men far more often then women, to be fair- shoot themselves in the head.

It’s difficult for the families because it’s such a nasty, brutal suicide.  Not dignified by any means.  It subconsciously turns a suicide into a violent homicide.  It’s hard to tell a son that it’s “not a great idea” to view dad because his forehead is missing and the coroner practically autopsied his head off.  Especially when he insists he wants to see him anyway.

Terry Thompson was another man who shot himself in the head in Ohio.  Nobody would have given two shits outside of his acquaintances.  Except Terry happened to own a wild animal park and released 56 animals, including rare Bengal tigers, lions, bears, and monkeys, into a populated community before killing himself.

And then police shot and killed almost all of the animals.  The end.

Terry was in and out of jail and obviously a live wire and maybe there was no way to prevent him from shooting himself in the head.  But we could have prevented a small town wild animal mini genocide by not keeping majestic wild beasts in a decidedly human world.

A few years ago, a tiger killed a teenager at the San Francisco zoo after the teenager was being an obnoxious little shit and throwing things at it.  Here’s a quote from the paper at the time:

“The 4-year-old Siberian tiger named Tatiana that killed one San Francisco Zoo visitor and injured two others on Christmas Day was acting just as a tiger normally would act, big-cat expert Ronald Tilson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“She was essentially shot and killed for being a tiger,” he said.”

Exactly, animals killed for being animals doing animal things that animals should do.

My friend Zac and I visited the zoo just a month or so after the attack, and found that not only did they have the tigers still on display (with a slightly higher fence), they were selling walls and walls of tiger merchandise in their giftshop.

I guess they had to recoup revenue from the days they had to shut the zoo down to clean the blood and remove the tiger carcass.

Another quote about the San Francisco zoo:

“A koala is kidnapped. Sheep are molested by a human intruder. An elephant does a headstand on a technician, breaking her pelvis. A tiger ravages its keeper’s arm. A year later, on Christmas Day, the same feline escapes, kills and gets killed.

This is what life can be like at the San Francisco Zoo, a 78-year-old institution saddled with a history of mismanagement and scores of injuries to animals, employees and visitors alike – yet still beloved by generations of Bay Area residents.”

People are shocked everytime a wild animal does something wild.  Something as natural to them as eating or driving a car would be to us.  Oh my god!  Shamu killed his trainer!  Oh my god!  This tiger killed someone taunting it!  We had to shoot 48 of these wild animals because they ran away when we tried to put them back in a cage!

The way to get a animal really riled up is to keep it in a sad little enclosure that in no way resembles its actual habitat.  Putting an elephant or tiger in a zoo pen is the equivalent of putting a human on a 6′ by 6′ island completely alone.  And expecting it not to go crazy.

Then, surprise, someone gets mauled or killed and we use it as an excuse to increase our arbitrary fear of natural processes and death.  This elephant “rampage” (aka fuck you for chaining me up and making me prance about for your amusement, guys) happened at a local circus when I was 10 and I thought for weeks that there were bloodthirsty elephants stampeding down the street after me.


I’ve referenced this next video before, but I think it is a brilliant piece of writing.  I’m not usually an urban comedy aficionado, but this assessment is beyond accurate.


If you want to shoot yourself, fine.  You’re a human.  As the philosopher Cioran says, “I live only because it is in my power to die whenever I want; without the idea of suicide I would have killed myself long time ago.”  But animals don’t share your existential engagement with the world.  They want to eat and roam and have sex and sleep. Let them.

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