A lion is dead… so what?

I’ll be telling nobody anything new by saying that Cecil the Lion was shot and killed. This is a terrible thing. There has been a great deal of reaction in the public and in the media, and that’s good, at face value. But really it’s a mask of technicality and hypocrisy.

The people involved face charges, but not because they shot a lion. Because they shot *this* lion, in the wrong place. Or rather, they moved it from land where they couldn’t shoot it, to land where they could. Honestly, if this wasn’t so tragic it would be funny.

Ultimately, Cecil was a fairly old lion and his death, in and of itself, is not an outrage. The outrage is that in the 21st Century this tuff is allowed to happen at all. Lions are not hunted for food, or for necessary control. They are hunted for sport. To me, the very notion of hunting a living creature purely for the fun of it is anathema.

I eat meat. I am sometimes conflicted about this, as my love of live animals should really mean I see this as unacceptable. But, as a species, we are omnivores and I deal with any guilt by trying to source food that has been well-treated and looked after, not farmed intensively. So, hunting for food I accept. Killing for the sake of it? That’s psychopathic.

The hypocrisy of all this is the front page outrage in the UK and USA. Two countries that have more than enough cruelty of their own to deal with before policing the world. It’s far easier to get into a moral state about something happening far away. Yet these hunters are, generally speaking, white men and women from the West. They are rich, and throw money at a situation to make themselves feel powerful. That’s the only explanation really. An elephant or a lion or a rhino is a big, powerful, intimiddating creature. So the response, primitive and cowardly as it is, is to kill it. Because then you are big and powerful yourself.

It’s the same insane logic that underpins poachers killing rhinos, lions, giraffes, tigers etc for ‘traditional medicine’, another irony in that it isn’t medicine, and often is barely traditional.

I don’t blame the poachers, farmers, and guides that make these industries work. They are generally very poor, and cannot be blamed for taking the few opportunities to better their situation. The blame sits in the UK, the US, and Asia, the places with the money driving this trade in gratuitous death and destruction.

We in the affluent West should take an interest in worldwide conservation. It matters to all of us. But when the death of one old lion gets headlines in newspapers whose owners own and manage shoots and hunts in the UK, directly or indirectly causing illegal persecution of whole species for their gain, I again find myself torn between laughing at the irony, and weeping at the horror.

I’d like to see The Daily Mail give the same attention to domestic issues, put Hen Harrier conservation on the front page. But this will never happen. I’d like to see David Cameron MP making public statements condemning raptor persecutions and hunt cruelty. But that won’t happen either. Nor will members of the royal family that are so active in African and South American conservation speak out. Because ultimately these are the same people taking part, and tacitly approving, whole doemstic industries as based on death as anything that happens to one old lion.

That’s my ‘so what?’. Stacked against all the ongoing industrial scale cruelty, what really is the value of one lion?


Sorry for the recent ranty posts. Back to the happier stuff next time.


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One Response to A lion is dead… so what?

  1. Emily Scott says:

    Hen harriers don’t sell papers like lions do unfortunately. I think there is something extra horrendous about killing an endangered species and from what I understand Cecil’s cubs are in danger of being killed by another male, so it’s not just one lion’s life at stake. But certainly there is plenty of cruelty going on at home; indeed David Cameron’s mission since being re-elected seems to be to increase animal cruelty. Of all the troubles our country faces, he apparently thinks foxes are the number one enemy and cause of all our woes.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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