Last week, Zimbabwe’s talisman of natural beauty, Cecil the lion was brutally slain by part-time hunter and full time dentist and prick, Walter Palmer causing worldwide condemnation. In fact the outpouring of grief is approaching Princess Diana levels of hysteria.
The guilty dentist, once the hunter now the hunted is in hiding, trying to slither out of extradition to Zimbabwe for the illegal hunt, his dental practice and home besieged by angry protesters, politely requesting he “rot in hell” and let’s not even talk abut his Yelp reviews.
Personally, I simply cannot understand the headspace of anyone who would want to hunt. To take a bow and arrow to a living creature is abhorrent. To shoot then behead and proudly display your quarry, heinous, however the hysteria surrounding Walter Palmer’s actions does leave me scratching my head over one thing.
It strikes me as strange that people are so vocal about the death of the lion yet most of us will happily be munching on burgers, sizzling bacon and chowing down on chicken in the same breath we decry Palmer’s actions.
Seems we love animals but just not enough to stop eating or wearing them. It’s like we pick and choose the animals we want to feel terrible about. Some justify the discord by explaining that hunting is brutal and purely for the huntsman's pleasure.
Have you been to an abattoir recently? They’re not massaging those creatures to death, non free range animals living their entire lives in confinement, pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones, fed the cheapest gruel (remember when farmers got caught feeding animals faeces??), then stunned and killed in front of each other for our consumption.
Unless you are some nomadic neanderthal roaming the wilderness living a hunter-gatherer existence none of us need to eat meat so really, we’re only eating it for our own pleasure.
In terms of protecting animals, is there really much difference between a man who hunts and us eating animals not because we need the meat but for our own satisfaction?
Most people and I include myself in this, are reluctant to convert to a plant-based diet because we don't want to make the personal sacrifice to save those farm animals (not forgetting it's been proven that it's better for the planet, requiring less resources, water and farmland to provide more food). And that’s fine but how quickly we point the finger at others indulging in terrible practices, such as the Yulin dog meat festival in China, Nordic whaling and yes, big game hunting in Africa (which, by the way, occurs year round ‘legally’ but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone anywhere near as much as when it involves a lion we happen to have given a name to) but those pigs, those sheep, those goats, those chickens we didn't give a cute name to, screw them they're too delicious to give up.
Don’t we in the west have our own questionable practices. If the Blackfish documentary makers got their facts right, SeaWorld should be shut down immediately but people still attend. I went to a zoo recently for research and my overarching sense was depression. It felt like One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest for animals. And isn’t fishing just hunting at sea? Donkeys at the beach, circus animals, elephants in Indian holiday resorts lugging westerners around, it could all come under the banner of maltreatment, the measure of which is purely and utterly subjective.
Personally, I couldn’t be as strident and vitriolic as some have been towards dentist, Walter Palmer. Not because I condone in anyway his behavior but because I know that I am not beyond reproach when it comes to animal welfare. I still eat em!
Perhaps the one good thing that may come from the death of Cecil the lion is a more honest conversation about our relationship with the animal kingdom making us think twice about the destruction we are causing in pursuit of our own needs.
Maybe Cecil’s was a noble sacrifice as I'm sure at least a few hunters are reconsidering their choices regarding their next planned hunt regardless of the legality.
Ultimately I hope all this is not just an outcry over one incident but an opportunity for all of us to really think about our relationship with all animals not just the ones with a cute face because none of us are above scrutiny when it comes to their welfare.
If you want Cecil's death to count for more, donate to the World Wildlife Fund.