In my twenties and thirties, I was all about righteous rage. I railed at the injustices I saw, furious at the humans who perpetrated them. In my forties, I’m trying to be more understanding. Not always succeeding, but trying. What makes people do the incomprehensible things they do? Usually I can find a sliver of compassion. But in the case of the American hunter who killed Cecil the lion, I am failing.
As you’ve undoubtedly read by now, Cecil was a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, known both for his majestic beauty and for the fact that he seemed to like being around humans. There are only about 32,000 lions living in the wild today – not at the brink of extinction, but down 60% in the last 50 years. An American dentist who likes shooting things with a bow and arrow for sport paid a company to lure Cecil out of his protected habitat with some meat (read: another animal they killed), light the night with spotlights, and give him the opportunity to shoot this gorgeous creature “in the wild.”
I know this is a dangerous question… but why? I know why only leads to frustration, but it’s the one that echoes around my brain. What deficiency can only be filled with death? What rush did that man get from ending a life, especially such a beautiful one? Surely he could not have been lying to himself that he somehow added to his manhood by surrounding himself with a team and a truck and a spotlight, stacking the odds to kill Cecil from a blind and cause him a painful, protracted death? It took 40 hours to track the wounded animal and finally end his pain with a gun. Surely that could not have felt like victory?
This hunter allegedly has many such kills under his belt, including one that reportedly got him fined for killing a black bear in 2008. And I know this kind of “hunting tourism” is big business. Businesses that promote this sickness even claim that they’re helping conservation efforts with the money they raise from the high kill fees they charge. But, of course, one way to help conservation is to not kill these animals at all. Love lions? Want to be near them? Want to spend upwards of $50,000 for a thrill with one? I am tempted to suggest letting guys like this loose with a pride sans equipment to see how he fares, but this is the new, gentler, more understanding me. Perhaps a photo safari instead.
There is a petition demanding justice against the men who killed Cecil. I want justice for the lion too. I have thought hard about what the best thing is. As much as I want vengeance against the people who perpetrated this senseless act, I want to know what would best for Cecil, what justice means in the face of his death. He leaves behind many cubs (I’ve seen numbers ranging from 6 to 24. Apparently Cecil was popular with the ladies). They carry his blood, his legacy. The best thing I can imagine in this inexplicable death is the survival of his offspring. Apparently that’s in jeopardy, because male lions kill the cubs of other males to make room for their own offspring (I thought human men were jealous. Damn). So I looked around and I found a petition to help save the cubs. I’m not sure how that will be carried out, exactly, but it seems like the most life affirming thing to focus on.
Click here to sign the petition. And let’s stand for peace and life.