Slaughter of Cecil the Lion represents the dregs of humanity — as does all trophy hunting
Everything we need to know about what’s wrong with humanity can be found in the killing of Cecil the Lion by American dentist Walter Palmer, an avid trophy hunter/poacher who gets his jollies by shooting wild animals, just for the sheer joy of watching them die.
Cecil, a 13-year old majestic lion with a distinctive black mane, was a beloved icon for tourists visiting Zimbabwe and hunting lions in the only ethical way possible — with a camera — but more importantly, was part of a long-term Oxford University study intended to save the remaining 20-30,000 wild lions left on the planet. He lived on the protected territory of Hwange National Park, and was intentionally lured off the grounds by professional hunter Theo Bronchorst and landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu, both Zimbabweans, who were paid $55,000 for the rush of killing a wild lion.
Palmer first wounded Cecil with a bow and arrow, then stalked him for 40 hours while he suffered in agony before finally shooting him. After the Great White Hunter made his kill, Cecil was skinned and beheaded, whereupon it was discovered that he was wearing a tracking device collar. The men made an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the tracking device, and Oxford University found Cecil. Well, his bloody, skinless, headless carcass anyway. The rest of him? Absconded by Palmer and his accomplices, likely headed for some dry ice and a crate to be flown back to the U.S., where Palmer will use his remains to decorate his walls.
This isn’t just a story of some rich jackhole who reaffirms his manhood by killing wild animals and using them as manly decor. The disgusting story has many more facets.
First, wildlife conservation: Wild lions are vanishing from existence. There are only 20-30,000 left. On the PLANET. And then, they’ll be gone. We’ll have only photographs to remember them. In addition to poaching, humans are encroaching further and further into lion territory, impinging upon both their space and food supply. When they turn to domestic cattle and goats for survival, the local people shoot them — just as we do to mountain lions here in California. We view them as encroaching upon our territory, when in fact, the reverse is true.
The Oxford University researchers (see wildcru.org) were gathering information from studying Cecil to use for preserving the species. The future of wild lions depended partially on data being gathered from him. In addition, Cecil’s many cubs are doomed, because when a new male lion takes over a pride, it kills the offspring of the old leader. Nature is beautiful, but it can also be harsh. Nature is also a chain. Interrupt one link, and the entire chain is disrupted, or destroyed completely. Don’t think so? Watch what happens to us if all the honeybees die.
Another piece of this story is exploitation. Greed and privilege plus poverty and desperation equals exploitation. As is evidenced over and over in human history, the rich, privileged class exploits those without resources and power, with utter disregard for the environment, the planet, and both human and non-human life. From blood diamonds in Africa to sweatshops in Bangladesh, the privileged class profits by exploiting those who have no choice but to submit to what is essentially slavery to survive.
Then there is trophy hunting itself, the most vile of human activities. There are some who claim that trophy hunting helps preserve endangered species. In psychology, we call this “justification.” The beneficial value of trophy hunting is pure folklore, intended to deflect guilt.
On the African continent, elephant, rhinocerous and lion populations are dropping faster than they can recover. With elephants, there is the additional poaching for their ivory tusks. The U.S. is moving toward banning the import of ivory. The U.S. should take the next step and ban the import of any animal part of any threatened species, and additionally make it illegal for American air carriers to transport it, just as several European airlines have.
As far as I’m concerned, trophy hunters are only one notch above serial child rapists. Those who spend their time and money killing animals for pleasure and bragging rights have diseased souls. This is in contrast hunters who eat the meat from their kills, for which I’ve developed a certain respect. In contrast to the evils of the corporate meat industry, hunting is the lesser of two evils. But those who kill only to decorate walls are intrinsically loathsome.
Last week, social media exploded with worldwide outrage over Cecil’s senseless slaughter. Many asked indignantly, why outrage over a lion instead of human tragedy? I pondered that myself. The day Cecil’s story broke, a little girl was raped and murdered in Santa Cruz. THAT is surely more tragic. Sandra Bland’s arrest and suicide, following a string of police violence against black citizens, is surely more tragic and seemingly endless. So, why all this angst and outcry for a lion?
The difference, why it hits a nerve, is this: Human on human violence has reasons most of us can sort of understand, even though the reasoning is vile. Hatred, lust, mental illness, religious fanaticism, fear, greed, prejudice…. we “get” those feelings. Cecil, however, was killed simply for the pure love of killing — the rush of joy, adrenaline and power from pulling a trigger and making something die. Killing for pleasure, whether of a human or an animal, is a level of pure evil most people can’t fathom. We find it horrifically repulsive. Most of us are hard-wired to to save a life, not take it, and that is the true nature of our “survival of the fittest”: compassion and empathy.
As for trophy hunting, and its new poster child, Walter Palmer, who bumps Casey Anthony from the top spot on the list of “Most Hated People in America,” he represents the dregs of humanity: Those who get joy from destroying life. Palmer didn’t merely kill a lion. He robbed all of us, and the generations that follow, a last chance to see disappearing majestic beauty and wonder.