I'm having a very hard time summoning any kind of empathy for the boys. This isn't the tale of an innocent life taken.
I don't like zoos. Wild animals kept in captivity are not entertainment. Lions, tigers, and bears (not to mention giraffes, rhinos, and monkeys) belong in their natural habitats, and not on display behind bars or walls or "natural habitat" enclosures. There's nothing natural about the extremely stressful, monotonous life of an animal kept in a cage. When I want Isabella to see these great creatures, I'll take her to the science museum, or I'll turn on the HD Discovery Channel.
But my dislike of zoos isn't the reason for my lack of empathy. Much as I wish all zoos to be put out of business, I certainly don't wish harm to those who choose to visit them.
No, my lack of empathy for these boys stems from their behavior just prior to the attack. According to witnesses, some or all of the boys were allegedly throwing things at the tiger, roaring at her, challenging her. The teenagers who were abusing Tatiana (and yes, I do consider their behavior abuse and so does California law, which states that taunting zoo animals is a misdemeanor) weren't little boys who didn't know any better. The youngest was 17 years old. These "boys" were practically adult men.
Those who abuse animals, children, and the elderly are the lowest common denominator in my book. Preying on the innocent and on those who can neither defend nor protect themselves makes you a cretin, and you deserve whatever punishment befalls you.
Wild animals kept in captivity are wild animals still. They have natural instincts, and when they're challenged by an aggressor, they're programmed to attack. Tatiana didn't suddenly go berserk for no reason. Zoo animals are accustomed to dealing with people, so there's no reason to suspect she just suddenly flipped out. Tatiana didn't go on a killing rampage and mow down all zoo visitors in her path. She attacked only three people. Three people who according to witnesses were harassing her and preying on her. Three people who didn't treat her with the respect and dignity she should have received. And one of them paid a terrible price for his mistreatment of her.FBI studies have established a link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to human beings. Adults who commit acts of animal cruelty are also likely to commit crimes where the victim is a human. And FBI studies have found that almost all serial killers have engaged in repeated acts of animal cruelty.
I am not implying that those who harassed and abused Tatiana would eventually become serial killers or even commit further abuse of animals. I am simply stating that there is a link. It's real, and it's prevalent enough that there's a new bill in the Senate, which proposes that the FBI track animal cruelty crimes so that law enforcement officials can better monitor criminal trends.
As long as wild animals are kept in captivity, and subjected to the stress and anxiety that being on display brings, attacks like this one will continue to happen when these great creatures are mistreated. And no one should be surprised when they do.
You can read more information about the link between cruelty to animals and violence committed against humans here.