Worse Things Are Happening (But We Can Still Care about Cecil)

by Leigh Thompson:

The senseless slaughter of a Lion is not the worst thing to happen this year. This month. This week. Or even today. We know that. Or at least most of my fellow outraged first-worlders do.

Cecil the LionFew would suggest that the rampant human trafficking occurring in Southeast Asia and even in our own backyards, the brutal murder of dozens of Christians by ISIS, or the horrors of literal baby splitting by Planned Parenthood is outweighed by the death of a semi-famous Lion.

Yet, for many Cecil’s death is more tangible. Not more tragic, simply easier to reach, to see in our own reflections and for those reasons easier to address. We can despise the acts of terrorists, slave traders, and doctors without morals because those are acts that are easy to hate and blessedly hard to relate to.

Like many other individuals, I find that I am a drop in a bucket facing a rising tide of those grave issues. The difference between those tragedies and this trophy-hunting dentist is that he could be my dentist, my neighbor, or even me. At the end of the day, Palmer provides a painful reminder of every atrocious human attribute that we fancy ourselves better than, and yet find ourselves still mired in.

Do not be so hasty in the rush to mischaracterize this current outrage as a Lion’s importance versus the life of a baby – or callousness against religious persecution and sex trafficking.

It is okay to care about this appalling practice too. And now is an appropriate time to be vocal about and against trophy hunting. Regrettably, Cecil provided a face for this movement. Why tamp down indignation over such brutality because technically, worse things are occurring?

This was hedonistic and morally bankrupt. This was not killing for survival, sustenance, or population control. It was a killing perpetrated by bloodlust, backed by cowardice and vanity and yet veiled by “conservation.” We should viscerally react; we should be outraged; we should rage against this ugly part of our supposedly evolved existence – because it’s the culture that we in the developed world come from.

Palmer spent a reported $55,000 to have guides lure an unsuspecting and somewhat trusting lion from his preserve so that he, an American with money and a superiority complex, could kill a lion. Not only is the act senseless and grotesque, but also, Palmer spent more than the median household income in America to kill one lion. For what? Funding future conservation? Giving owners of these animals a stake in their continued existence?

Even if this is the case, trophy hunting is still a deplorable practice – false superiority cloaked in kindness is nothing to be proud of.

Nonetheless, we who oppose this “sport” are cast as melodramatic because worse things are occurring. Worse things are occurring. That does not mean that these worse things should negate the atrocities of trophy hunting or poaching and that we should simply forget it.

Pope Francis recently wrote of the degradation of our culture and society, of the ill effects that relativism has brought about. While I contend that the Pope largely (mostly) missed the mark, he was right about one thing: the concept of “dominion” over animals was not meant to provide humans a free pass to brutalize animals for sport. Relativism in this context could easily lead from the flurry of Internet outrage over Cecil’s death to whatever else grabs the collective attention span. And that should not be so.

Cecil won’t be the last lion or big game to face this fate. But we can and should use his death as an opportunity to shed light on a “sport” that deserves all the shame it has earned over the last week.

Leigh Thompson is a Texas attorney, who specializes in energy and the environment. 

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