02 August 2015

They Killed Cecil

For about a week now, during periods when we're not anticipating what verbal vomit will next be ejected from The Donald's mouth or pretending that the parched and burning west coast is not indicative of much bigger problems to come, a large part of the country (and the world) has been lighting the torches and sharpening the pitchforks in a hunt for the hunter—one Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who, in a theoretically "good and legal" hunt gone terribly bad and illegal, paid fifty grand to (apparently) accidentally shoot to death a locally well-known and loved—not to mention physically distinctive—13-year-old male Southwest African lion named Cecil. As the news of Cecil's death exploded on social and other media, Dr. Palmer went to ground, if not at the suggestion of his attorney, by his own survival instincts: I'm guessing there are more than a few scopes both virtual and literal trained on Dr. Palmer's head.

Even buying that the guides—and the hunter—truly believed that this hunt was "clean," that they had no clue which lion they were killing, his tracking collar perhaps obscured by Cecil's glorious and famously black mane; even allowing that it's allowable to lure any animal out of a national park for the purpose of shooting it; and even allowing and accepting the practice of hanging dead animals' heads, skins and other body parts on the wall as trophy or decor, what exactly is it that makes one feel good, proud and satisfied about taking the life of an animal that has no reason—food, threat, injury, disease, overpopulation—to be killed? And why is first shooting the animal with an arrow and not successfully killing it, then finishing it off more than a day later not cruelty and torture? (I get that Cecil ran for cover, as would most anything shot by an arrow. What I don't get, in an age where we've taken the projectile to much more reliable and efficient heights, is why we're still shooting things with arrows. More "sporting?" Tell it to the wounded and suffering animal.)

As stated earlier in this fledgling blog (though for very different reasons), I am neither belt-buckle-proud NRA-member and game hunter nor all-guns-are-evil bumper-sticker vegetarian activist. I do not attempt to force myself into eating a diet other than that of the omnivore I am by design, and, like many of my kind, choose to not dwell on the lives and deaths experienced by the animals who gave their former and suffered the latter to become the neatly butchered and shrink-wrapped chunks of beef, pork and poultry upon which I feast. Call me a hypocrite, but at least an honest one.

What I cannot wrap my head around is the mind that gets off on killing for pleasure and trophy animals of any kind, but I suppose more so those considered rare and exotic. Which is not to flat-out say, It's wrong, but is merely my personal opinion. Mr. Palmer, after taking Cecil, no doubt assumed The Pose, most typically one foot on the kill, weapon in hand, now infamous vitreous white-toothed smile (he puts his mouth where his money is) beaming for the lens. And Cecil may have been the ideal example that so easily lends his killing to public outrage: capable of invoking "The Lion King" images as well as those of an actual, locally (and now globally) famous and beloved animal, something you cannot achieve by simply killing for free a common deer or even ordinary black bear.


Why this is so hard for me to understand makes little sense. We kill our own species, oftentimes complete with some variation of The Pose; throughout history we've painted and photographed images of conquerors holding up severed human heads, trophies of The Hunt. Perhaps taking big and/or exotic game puts more value on the prize. It's the most killing fun you can have for fifty grand without killing another human being.

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