On May 28th 2016, the world was shaken by the tragic killing of Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe was fatally shot by the zoo after a three-year-old boy fell into his enclosure, sparking a global outcry and intense debate over the ethics of animal captivity, and how the situation was so ruthlessly handled. 

Today we are shining a light on International Harambe Day; a day dedicated to reflecting on Harambe's story and legacy, and advocating for the rights and protection of animals cruelly held in captivity worldwide. 

Harambe's death was not only devastating and wholly unnecessary, but also a stark reminder of the sad reality that so many intelligent, sentient beings trapped in captivity face every day. Harambe was not violent, and many experts argued that he did not exhibit any aggressive behaviour throughout the incident. The situation could have been resolved by using non-lethal methods, yet the zoo chose to shoot him dead. 

This terrible act of violence shocked the world, and raised the conversation around the ethical dilemmas and dangers that animals held captive in zoos face. These tragedies occur because animals in the zoo industry are treated as “stock”; their lives traded, used and discarded as if they were inanimate objects, not the complex individuals they truly are.

Harambe, and all animals, are sentient beings capable of complex emotions and social interactions. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They deserve freedom. The freedom to make their own choices, build their own familial relationships, and to live their lives in their natural habitat. No captive environment can create this, and so there is no ethical way to hold animals captive against their will. 

All zoos' marketing campaigns claim that they help conserve wild populations of animals, or contribute to conservation projects. But in reality, this is a smokescreen, and when you look behind it, the truth is that they are built-for-profit businesses that prioritise the entertainment of visitors over the welfare of animals.

We know that the focus should be on preserving natural habitats and ensuring species' survival in the wild. If the financial support offered to in-situ sanctuaries and conservation initiatives was as high as it is for zoos, the world would be a much kinder, safer place for animals. Yet instead, millions of pounds are funnelled into building prisons to hold animals captive; animals who will never see freedom, or roam their wild habitats as they were born to do.

Like Harambe, they will die within the unnatural walls of their enclosures. His death, even years later, should serve as a call to action. 

This International Harambe Day, join us in honouring Harambe's memory by advocating and striving for a world where animals are respected, protected and free. 

You can help take a stand against the zoo industry's current place in society by boycotting zoos, holding outreach events (to share with the public the reality that animals in captivity suffer), and sharing our posts on social media.

You can also watch and share the powerful documentary, 'Harambe'; a poignant film which explores animal captivity through the lens of Harambe’s tragic life and death. 

In remembering him we not only mourn his tragic loss, but also commit ourselves to the ongoing fight for the rights of all animals. Let this day be a reminder of our shared responsibility to protect and cherish the diverse individuals with whom we share this planet.