Unless you've been living in a hole the past few weeks, you've probably heard about the unnecessary and senseless killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. An American dentist has been identified as the killer, paying upwards of $50,000 for a chance to shoot this magnificent species with a bow and arrow. And once they lured it out of the park, tracked it for 40 hours, they cut off his head, his tracker, and his skin.
I posted on several of my social media outlets about how disgusted I am with this human being. And I'm not alone. Many people feel this way. And let's not forget about this piece of work who also boosts on her Facebook page about how she's a "conservationist" because she pays a lot of money to go to Africa and kill rare animals.
Trophy hunting is a way that humans continue to show their ignorance over our role on this planet. Yes, we are the dominant species. But we also have the power to recognize our impact and MAKE CHANGES. I was never a hunter (don't even kill spiders)...in fact my sister and I were some of the only students in my high school that didn't take advantage of the built-in three days off we got for the start of deer season each year. All of my friends were hunters. Most people in my family hunt. And every time they kill an animal they EAT IT!
I believe this is where most of the outrage from "trophy hunting" comes from. These people are killing animals for the sake of having a head on the wall or a rug on the floor - not for the sake of feeding their family. I understand that local villagers often get the meat but wouldn't those $50,000 (and up) fees be better served improving water quality, or supporting infrastructure for education, or even SUPPLYING FREE DENTAL WORK (yes, Mr. Dentist - there's a novel idea)?
In 2000, I had a chance to go to Tanzania. It was the most amazing experience of my life and I can still remember it like we were just there. Seeing these animals alive and well and living as they should (well, the best they could) is something that profoundly impacted and solidified my opinions about being a human. As the dominant species, we have a responsibility to be the stewards of the community. We are the ones whose actions impact the world. We are the ones who need to have the foresight to protect, conserve, and make the wise decisions.
I'm not going to discuss how much I despise the idea that killing an endangered/threatened animal is supporting the conservation of said animals (I mean, I could write a book about the stupidity of that statement! Hmm....) but I did want to discuss something else that has come up with this story. Are we overreacting?
I've seen several posts similar to this story where people are outraged that we're outraged about the killing of one lion in Zimbabwe. Is it the "moral flaw in our humanity" that we care so much about a lion but not about the insane number of humans being slaughtered around the globe every day? Do we care only because Cecil had a name? Are we not humanitarians if we're outraged about the killing of a lion?
I, for one, am actually a little offended by these statements (and I really don't offend too easily). Just because I'm angry that trophy hunting is still allowed in today's society doesn't mean that I don't care about human beings and their rights. I teach environmental science and try to educate the next generation about what it means to be HUMAN. What our responsibilities are on this planet. I care about school shootings, water shortages, world hunger. We wouldn't be HUMAN if we didn't.
But I'd like to argue that outrage can be GOOD. It can inspire CHANGE when, in this world of instant social media, an American dentist who did an unnecessary and greedy thing, can spark a world debate in just a few hours. So are Delta, American, and United Airlines overreacting when they banned the transport of trophy hunted remains? No! They are responding to something that should have been stopped a long time ago because people are outraged. Outrage can lead to change. Just look at some of the recent Supreme Court rulings (more on that in another post).
So this is what I want to ask you today - did we overreact? Is the outrage and are the subsequent actions justified/appropriate/necessary? Or should we stop caring so much about one lion and instead focus on the injustices committed to humans by other humans?
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