Cecil the lion. Surely we all know his name by now. This past week the tragic death of one of Zimbabwe’s much-loved lions at the hands of an American dentist, Walter Palmer, has sparked international outrage, and rightly so.
Reports say that Cecil was lured from the national park he lived in (and was protected by) and then killed. The hunter apparently paid US$55,000 for the ‘privilege’ of killing a lion. Cecil took 40 long hours to die after being shot, but not killed outright, with a bow and arrow.
There is something slightly psychopathic and disturbing about people that go on these big game trophy hunts. It is truly difficult to fathom why someone would take delight in causing suffering and death. Because that’s what happened here. Bizarrely, Mr Palmer’s hobby is travelling around the world killing animals such as elephants, leopards, and polar bears.
Such is the outrage over the death of Cecil that Palmer’s business is now in trouble and his whole personal life is under scrutiny.
The real issue extends far beyond this individual man. Trophy hunting is nothing new. It’s being going on for years in Africa, and let’s not forget that rich tourists come to New Zealand to do it too, killing tahr, chamois, deer and other animals. Some people would say that’s ok because they’re ‘pests’, but you have to question the mentality of these people, who ultimately are looking for a thrill kill and a trophy on their wall.
Following such a huge public outcry it’s also interesting to see how many people are making the comparison between Cecil and other animals. Some are asking why does Cecil matter so much, but an anonymous pig on a factory farm does not? Cecil himself was past his mating prime so his value in terms of conservation no longer holds. Of course that does not make his death any less tragic, but it does open up an opportunity to look at how our society treats and regards animals in general. If we were told the pork on our plate was actually called Lucy, that she was three years old, loved her babies, sang to them and suffered from depression due to harsh confinement in a crate on a factory farm, would we care a bit more?
This is a much welcomed debate; it’s heartening to see people who might not consider themselves massive animal lovers standing up for this lion. Cecil was someone, not something. He had a name and a personality. And this rich dude took his life. Walter Palmer has earned the censure for killing the king of the jungle.
Deep down though, we must examine and acknowledge how our own actions impact on animals.
Perhaps Cecil will end up as an ambassador for all animals. We’ve got to listen to our hearts and look for our compassion, because when it comes to wanting to live, all animals are Cecil.
Mandy Carter, Head of Campaigns