Thousands of miles away, a majestic and beautiful voice has been silenced. Last month, Walter Palmer, a prominent dentist from Michigan, carelessly, cold-bloodedly and probably illegally, slaughtered Cecil, the lion. The revered 13-year-old Lion King was lured away from his protected grounds in Zimbabwe, shot with an arrow and left to die — only, he didn’t. After 40 hours of suffering, he was tracked by the dentist, shot, skinned, and beheaded; his GPS collar, then hidden in a tree. Following the killing, it is said, that the blood-thirsty, Dr. Walter Palmer, hadn’t gotten enough and was off to butcher an elephant. Social media has gone mad with this story. My newsfeeds have blown up with Palmer-shaming. Between reports of the 2016 presidential election circus, every news update includes a report regarding the legal tangles of Palmer, his unknown whereabouts, and the request for his extradition, back to Zimbabwe, to face his crimes. The hunter has become the hunted.
The internet is flooded with images of hunters and poachers gleefully posing with their lifeless kill – a buffalo, a giraffe, a leopard, an elephant – always with an assault weapon, unabashed pride and a shit-eating grin. The commentary that follows ranges from vitriolic hatred of Walter Palmer, et al, to fervent support and defense of the hunters and the “legal sport” they pursue. In an article published in Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-equation/201104/children-who-are-cruel-animals-when-worry):
“Animal cruelty in children is one of the best predictors of later violence and criminality.”
When children harm animals, they are classified as psychopathic, sociopathic and closely watched for behaviors that might later lead them to more violent behaviors, even murder. When adults “legally” kill and torture animals, it is somehow considered a sport – a sport often with a large ticket in excess of tens of thousands of dollars and the farce that the money is going to save poor villages in Africa.
I have no compassion for Palmer and his ilk and only feel a mild compassion for his family for what is akin to guilt-by-association. I wish no harm on his children but I don’t care for a spouse that supports detestable behavior and “stands by her man” no matter how vile his “legal” pursuit of the innocent. Whether or not a hunt is “legal,” I wonder how can she sleep next to him given his careless disrespect and flippant attitude toward killing. Of the things that keep me up at night, the destruction of his dental practice and even his personal property are not on my list of worries. While I trust that Karma will somehow take care of this, I know that there are many others that would like to see his head proudly displayed on the wall in the center of all of his innocent and beautiful victims.
I urge you to read this lovely and cogent article written by Tony Keller:
Tony Keller on “Why Did You Kill Cecil the Lion?”
That is a very good question. It is also the essential question. Not whether he had the appropriate permits, or followed local bylaws, or lured a lion out of a protected area, or knew Cecil was a revered part of a research project. No, the fundamental question is this: Why kill something for the sake of killing it? What kind of person finds pleasure in that?
And he continues to contrast the behavior of by-standers who came across a trapped, beached orca:
Last week, a female orca was discovered at low tide in Hartley Bay, B.C., trapped on the rocks. If the whale remained stranded and in the sun for even a short time, she would die. She was making distress calls, probably to her family nearby. Volunteers rushed to the scene, covered her in blankets and for hours doused her with saltwater to keep her cool, all the while trying to calm and soothe her. When the tide rose, the whale’s five-tonne body became buoyant and she was able to swim to safety. People on the scene, interviewed after the fact, expressed wonder at what they had seen and satisfaction at what they had done. The life of a living, breathing, feeling creature had been saved.
I love this contrast. Incidentally, I was on my regular Saturday walk last weekend when I noticed a fence that was built around a tree – in a vertical way. The fence had a hole in it so the awkward, low branch could grow through it. I am always impressed when people go out of their way to protect something that is living.
Why the uproar over a lion? Why the uproar over this lion? What if this lion didn’t have a name? How about the killings before Cecil and all that will follow? Why do we care more for a lion than we do for humans, who are starving and being tortured all over the world? Here’s my thought: Why not? Ignoring the calculated, inhumane destruction of this lion, because other atrocities are concurrent, is counterproductive and doesn’t help any cause. On the other hand, if the attention given to the death of this lion frustrates you enough because your cause is being ignored, then use that frustration to motivate. If Cecil’s death forces compassion, energy and protests to right the wrongs of refugees, The Lost Girls of Nigeria, lions without names, zebras, giraffes, the hungry and the poor, and childhood cancer, then by all means, channel that passion in what matters to you. One cause is not more important than the next. They all matter. Using your voice, where others have been silenced is a small donation to the right side of humanity.
Cecil mattered. If the senseless and cruel killing of this beautiful creature forces all of us to use our voices where others have been silenced, then Cecil’s death was ultimately, worth more than his life. Restore his roar in your own voice and use that passion to fight for a cause that needs some strength. Leave a legacy of hope for those who can no longer be heard.