Nightly news and the Internet are abuzz with the recent killing of Cecil, the beloved 13-year-old Zimbabwe lion, by American dentist Walter Palmer. CNN reports that some celebrities are joining the posse to hunt down Palmer just as he hunted down Cecil.
The question we have is this: Where does the blame truly lie? Yes, the murder of Cecil is heinous and unforgivable, to be sure. But who made the choice of that lion? Palmer or the guides he paid?
We don’t advocate the killing of any living being and we’re not supporting that here. But we aren’t turning a blind eye to the others who were with Palmer. Shouldn’t we look at those who lured the lion out of the safety of the preserve? And did Palmer have any advance knowledge of who Cecil was or, rather, why did he pay 50 grand to shoot and kill a lion?
Hunting in Africa vs. America
Big game hunting has been prevalent in Africa since the dawn of time. Documentaries and movies like “Out of Africa” have covered this practice for years. It’s the sport of hunting large animals like lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino that is repulsive to us as Americans.
But don’t forget that we also hunt our form of big game here in the States. Deer, moose and elk are hunted and killed annually. And many are killed for sport.
Hunting is something that becomes much more palatable if we know it’s for a reason. It’s the sport that’s abhorrent. For example, Hunters for the Hungry donate meat to families who can’t afford it.
And there are numerous politicians and celebrities who regularly hunt and kill big game in Africa that don’t get the press Palmer is receiving. Who, you ask? How about Mobile, Alabama mayor Sandy Stimpson who has shot and killed African big game for sport including lions?
So What is It About Cecil?
The fact that this majestic creature has a name pulls emotion to the forefront and makes his death and violent dismemberment even more gut wrenching. A name humanizes Cecil to the point of feeling like he was a beloved family pet.
Where Does the Blame Lie?
So if we, as Americans, feel the need to finger point, where should those digits be aimed?
The simple answer … and probably the one that’s most accurate … is the guides who are in jail facing poaching charges. It was their lure that brought Cecil out of the preserve and Cecil should have been a lion they recognized far more than Palmer ever could have.
Fellow hunter, Theo Bronkhorst, and farm owner, Honest Ndlovu, have been charged with hunting without a permit or quota. Palmer, according to reports, claims he paid for the hunt and relied on the guides to get the needed permits.
And it’s the lack of permits that appears to be the crux of this case, and not the fact that Cecil was, well, Cecil.
Would this case have been noticed if the lion had not been Cecil? Probably not. Lions are shot and killed regularly in Africa. Would the hunter have had as much press if he had not been an American? We think that can be answered with a resounding no as well.
While the killing of Cecil is tragic, try to take a step back and see where the blame lies. But regardless, whether or not Palmer actually is complicit – killing such a majestic creature is abhorrent.
We anxiously await to learn more about the investigation.
Reference links: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/29/world/cecil-lion-walter-palmer-social-reaction/index.html