I have a friend who bought animal heads at a garage sale, once. He hung them in his den then invited me to admire the display. Frankly, I found a room filled with decapitated heads to be eerie and could no more understand why a person would hang carcasses on a wall than I could understand why we eat them.
Knowing I am in the minority on animal matters, imagine my surprise at the international uproar over Cecil, the Zimbabwe lion recently killed by a dentist on safari, Dr. Palmer. That people were outraged about the killing was a positive, I thought; but I couldn’t reconcile the reaction with a glaring incongruity. As Brent Arends said in MotherWatch.com, “Most of those baying for Palmer’s blood think nothing of eating eggs and meat produced by the U.S.’s barbaric factory farms…” a model that “subjects tens of millions of animal to lives…and deaths… of nightmarish horror..” (“New,” The Week, August 14, 2015, pg. 6)
From a human perspective, killing a lion for sport might seem less excusable than killing a chicken for food, but I doubt the chicken would see the distinction. (For examples of cruelty in the poultry industry watch Frontline’s “The Trouble With Chicken” aired in May of this year. ) But if we chose to dole out our tolerance for cruelty based on a creature’s standing on the evolutionary chain, I have to wonder why there isn’t more outrage about human poverty, war and the plight of refugees who are fleeing from persecution in their homeland.
The case of the Zimbabwe lion is simple to grasp, I suppose. One man killed one beloved lion. Our brains can encompass the tragedy, though some would defend Dr. Palmer. Hunting is a way to thin out overpopulated species, they might argue — though in the case of lions, that defense wouldn’t hold. Cecil was killed for adventure, with no thought of population control. Besides, hunters seek the best of a species: the strongest and most beautiful. Nature uses death to pick off the weak.
Hunting is a cruel activity, a bloodletting to satisfy a blood lust. I admit, the cry of outrage over Cecil’s death speaks to the best that is in us. I hope we will go on heeding that impulse to cry out against other cruelties. Perhaps we could start with racism.