June 2016 Update: Harambe the gorilla and our relationship with animals

A jaguar named Juma, exhibited in chains at an Olympic torch ceremony in Brazil, was shot dead on Monday by a soldier. And on May 28, a four-year-old boy fell into an enclosure with Harambe, a seventeen-year-old male gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. Rather than tranquilizing him with a dart, zoo officials proceeded to shoot Harambe with a rifle. The incident provoked mass outrage at the zoo.

It also brought to light our tenuous relationship with wild animals. Harambe was born in captivity in a zoo in Texas and he died in captivity in a zoo in Ohio. It’s not that all zoos are bad, or that they’re bad for all animals, but it’s the simple fact that most wild animals are not suited to a life in captivity. They require space and they require social interaction. For animals such as gorillas—who have high intelligence, complex social dynamics, and active lives—the challenge posed by captivity is often acute.

The reason Harambe’s death caused such outrage is that it happened in front of a gathered public. Imagine for a minute that it hadn’t. Imagine that Harambe was shot in the middle of the night. Imagine that there were no onlookers, no photos, no videos, no witnesses.

That is the reality today in agribusiness. There is little outrage on behalf of farm animals because there are very few witnesses to factory farms. Entry is strictly forbidden. And that’s part of the reason that conditions at the best factory farms are far worse than those at the worst zoos.

At the end of the day, all animals feel and suffer, and it’s important for us as a society to pay heed.

Farm animals and wild animals are not disconnected. Animal agriculture is among the most substantial threats faced by wildlife today, including gorillas. I explore the effect of factory farms on wildlife in Project Animal Farm. Upon visiting dairy farms in the United States, I noticed that the larger the dairy farm, the more eerily silent it was, absent of bird song. “On large dairies today, gone are the symphonies of sparrows, the songs of swallows, the guffaws of ravens, the whistles of mockingbirds, and the lifting chirps of bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, upland sandpipers, and all manners of other birds,” I write in Chapter 14.

Birds and other animals are disappearing as their habitats disappear. Factory farms endanger not just farm animal welfare and human health, but also the survival of wildlife.

There’s lots going on with Project Animal Farm these days.


  1. I’m excited to announce that the book was just released in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau!
  2. There’s a deal on Kobo, where Project Animal Farm will cost only $3.99 (a discount of more than 80%) for the week from Thursday, June 30 to Wednesday, July 6. Get it, and please spread the word!
  3. I received an especially touching note from a reader, Jackie, who permitted me to share it with you. “You and your book have been an answer to a long standing prayer that I have had…Your book was difficult to put down…I am so honored to have shared this journey with you…You’ve given me courage and hope…After finishing your book, I see it is one step at a time. We can do things to reduce our environmental footprint. We can dive headlong into something without knowing how or if there is a way out…Thank you for being so true to yourself and following that calling even though it meant risking so much.”
  4. I discuss with Common Ground food labels in grocery stores, and how much or how little they mean. If you’ve ever been confused by labels, take a look at the conversation here to set things straight.
  5. A review appeared in Choice “Faruqi takes an emotional topic with strong feelings on both sides and wide variances across the spectrum, and gives insight into animal farming worldwide without bias.”

In more personal news, I just celebrated my two-year wedding anniversary yesterday! The present my husband and I are giving ourselves is a visit to Algonquin Park over the Independence Day weekend. Algonquin is the largest national park in Ontario, the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. We visited last summer to find it to be a stunning expanse of rolling hills and rushing rivers. It’s home to black bears, moose, deer, wolves, beavers, and other countless other creatures big and small. I will be sharing photos from the visit in my next blog and newsletter, so stay tuned.

Here are some ways for you to connect with wildlife without visiting a zoo.

  • Visit a national park. If you’ve never been to a national park before, you’ll find yourself amazed and addicted. Here’s a list of national parks in the United States and here’s one in Canada.
  • Not sure when you’ll get to a park? Not a problem. Install a bird feeder in your garden. I just got my father a bird feeder for Father’s Day. Watch your backyard turn into a sanctuary for wildlife.
  • Take a safari for your next vacation. Among the best experiences of my childhood was the summer I spent in Kenya with my family, watching elephants and zebras, and monkeys and giraffes stroll the lands.

Thank you for reading! I hope you take the time to smell the flowers and hear the birds and heed the animals—you won’t regret it.