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Would Cecil Be Proud?
Be outraged. Call it atrocious, because it is. But don’t cheapen Cecil’s legacy with misguided anger.
Cecil was a famously beautiful, 13-year old lion recently killed and beheaded by an American dentist moonlighting as a big game hunter.
The lion's death has pulled the masses into outcry against poaching. Or perhaps it’s against killing a beloved animal? Or, maybe it was the horror of decapitation that upset everyone? I’m not sure which part most unnerves people, but suffice it to say, the internet response has all but exploded in the wake of Cecil's killing.
The photos of the lion plastering social media and news outlets are upsetting. Cecil was special (and oh-so photogenic). He was a national treasure in Zimbabwe. But he deserves more than what he’s getting from the public. Most are disavowing his death not simply because he was an animal, but because of his status. Because he was well-known and his death was needless. But he was a living being with a heartbeat and a brain and at one time, a mother. Ignoring the honor he deserved for being, and not merely for the symbol that he was, degrades the life he had.
Killing animals is needless
Taxidermy has nothing to do with human survival. Stuffed dead furry heads on the wall? That’s merely a design faux pas some people (unfortunately) choose for their homes. Nor is hunting required for nourishment. Not anymore. And, perhaps most importantly, humans don’t need to eat meat to survive. Yet we are pretending like Cecil’s death is uniquely horrifying, while our grocery store-bought meat is what, uniquely necessary? Sorry, but Bessie the cow was probably beheaded for your gourmet black and blue burger. Slaughtering in the food industry, just like beheadings of creatures for display, is unnecessary. We don’t need either, yet somehow our thirst for justice only goes one way.
What about the elephants?
The uproar about Cecil’s death has also dominated over coverage of the recent poaching of Kenyan elephants. While the public has been consumed with Justice for Cecil, five Kenyan elephants were slaughtered by poachers. Investigations are under way and a spokesperson from Kenya Wildlife Service called the killings “devastating.” Because elephants are headed towards extinction, thanks to the high number of poachers seeking elephants for their ivory tusks.
Hypocrisy with human killings
Animal rights isn’t the only arena where humans fall short of recognizing our hypocrisy. Human rights also garner louder public passion when the subjugated group is more celebrated. This is particularly true with skin color.
For example, in response to discovering that a young black boy was recently shot in Chicago over a hot weekend in July, Dr. Kellie Rice (a psychotherapist specializing in trauma) pointed out that “had a white kid in the suburbs gotten shot, they would have had grief counselors on every corner.”
When a child is tragically taken too soon, let’s be outraged. But let’s also be outraged about the black and brown kids being shot in the poorer parts of town, who are just as human as those from more affluent neighborhoods. And if you’re upset about Cecil’s death, be upset. Tell the world how you feel hurt and disappointed in mankind that one of us could be so despicable. But do not draw a line between Cecil and his fellow brethren who we kill for our gourmet pleasures on a daily basis.
I'm not saying go vegan (but be my guest)
Of course I could invoke the same argument about wearing furs, leather, and so on. I’m not calling for the public to adopt perfect values or go vegan, nor am I taking away one’s right to be heartbroken about Cecil’s death. I am simply challenging those who are angry to see the bigger picture. Before we burn the dentist at the stake, let’s understand how our everyday actions violate the sanctity of life.
I imagine Cecil, the lion, would be proud.