Grief + Mourning

On the Death of Animals

At-Home Pet Euthanasia Grows in Popularity
Steve Hendrix, Washington Post (September 26, 2011)


National Public Radio: Do Animals Grieve?
Barbara J. King, National Public Radio (October 20, 2011)

This past week I spent some time thinking about animals and death. As the bengal tigers, brown bears and lions were shot to death in Zanesville, Ohio this week because their former owner let them loose and then committed suicide, I thought about the visceral, emotional responses many people had to the animals’ deaths.


Over the past few weeks, a handful of stories on animals, pets, and death have popped up. The Death Reference Desk has an entire section dedicated to Pets, and it’s worth reading through.

I kept coming back to an essay by John Berger, which I first read about five years ago. His essay, Why Look at Animals?, mulls over a key question: Why do we humans look at other animals? What do we hope to gain from staring at these creatures related but separate from us on the taxonomic tree of life?

In the case of pets, I think that we look at these animals out of love. That’s why it’s so difficult when a pet either dies naturally or is euthanized. A pet’s death is the loss of both a non-human companion and love. Both articles at the top of the page touch on this area.

As for the animals in Ohio, we look at so-called wild animals for some sign of unhindered wilderness and freedom. The tragic irony is that once those animals were set free they were killed.

By humans.

Looking at them through rifle scopes.

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