The killing of Cecil the lion by American dentist Walter Palmer has created a worldwide uproar of disgust, anger, and indignation. But how different are Palmer’s actions from the everyday actions of the majority of the world’s population?
There’s been a worldwide outcry about the unjust killing of Cecil the lion with hundreds of thousands protesting this horrific act. But are the violent actions of Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed this majestic creature, really any different or worse than the daily actions of the vast majority of the world’s population? It’s time for the terribly unlikely vegan animal activist’s defense of Cecil’s the lion’s killer. [tweet this]
I’ve gotten a number of requests to address the story of Cecil the lion, and as I said about the Yulin dog festival in June: what, exactly, is all the fuss about?
Before you leave an enraged comment on how heartless I am, stay with me through this thought process. I’ve chosen again to not have any graphic footage in the video above in hopes that you and others be more willing to watch [though you can choose to just read as well].
This is post is not meant to invalidate the very appropriate reaction of being enraged by the horrific killing of a living being—in fact my goal is the very opposite of that.
In situations like this where mass global outrage is running high, it’s important for us to collectively look at the continuity of our reactions to our actions.
There’s a saying which holds a good deal of truth that the things we find most objectionable in others are things we do not accept about ourselves, and while this isn’t always 100% true, I think in this situation it holds a great deal of validity.
As I did with the Yulin video, I’m going to look at the major objections surrounding Cecil’s unjust killing and compare those to the everyday actions of the majority of the global population to see if we can tease out some discontinuities. This is a bit of a longer video, but I want to be thorough as there are many aspects to this issue.
We’re going to focus on the cruel manner in which Cecil was killed, the fact that he was a park favorite, the fact that he was meant to be a protected animal for an ongoing conservation study, and the repercussions of his remaining pride.
Let’s start with the manner in which Cecil was killed. Palmer reportedly paid $50,000 American dollars to get the kill a lion. Cecil, who was rather accustomed to humans since being part of a study for so long, was rather easily lured out of his area so that Palmer could kill him.
Palmer then shot Cecil with a crossbow wounding but not killing him and then tracked him the next 40 hours before he or another of his team [this was not made clear in news reports] shot Cecil with a rifle. Cecil was then beheaded and skinned for a “trophy” of the kill.
Now so much of this is objectionable. The outrageous money paid for the “privilege” of killing Cecil, the exploitation of his trusting nature, the prolonged suffering he experienced over those 40 hours, and the ultimate desecration of his carcass.
Well, let’s compare this to the everyday habits of the majority of the worlds population. Those of us who eat animals—and I’m speaking from the collective “we” or “us” as humanity, though I myself am vegan—actually pay fractions of what Palmer did for our meals to be killed, which may be an even greater insult to have your life worth a couple of dollars or 99 cents on the value menu. [tweet this]
Our meals—or, let’s be honest, our victims—are possibly even more trusting of humans than Cecil as they’ve been bred and raised in complete captivity. Our victims don’t just suffer for 40 hours but for years in some cases, living in daily horrific conditions, being overcome with debilitating illness and disease, suffering broken limbs from growing so unnaturally fast in order to produce more meat for our meals, live with open infected sores, suffer with lameness, blindness, total confinement, sores from cages, being driven to cannibalism and madness from intolerable conditions, and never even seeing the light of day.
They are often fully conscious when their throats are slit or they’re thrown into electrified baths of water. Some even make it to dismemberment and die piece by piece. And this is not just in factory farms. Where do you think the nice quite family farms send their animals to be slaughtered?
Cecil had many years of being outdoors, being allowed to live his life safe and protected. Strangely this is the argument many people give when saying that hunting is better than factory farming. Yet now they are using the opposite argument to condemn Palmer. Cecil suffered for 40 hours. Chickens, who we kill by the billions, only get to live an average of 42 days when they are killed at 6 weeks old. And those entire six weeks are beyond torturous. [tweet this]
In regards to the rather cowardice approach of killing a lion so accustomed to humans, those of us who eat animals and their byproducts don’t even look our victims in the face. We pay other people to breed, enslave, torture, and murder them so we can have the nice package, the “trophy” that comes out on the other side and save ourselves the difficulty of feeling complicit in their deaths. So in essence, whose approach is more cowardly? [tweet this]
And as to the desecration of his carcass, the bodies of the victims of our food industry are treated with no more reverence, possibly even less. They are no more than commodities—kicked, beaten, poked, prodded, punched, burned, cut, punctured, branded, and utterly destroyed and disregarded. They are beyond uncared for and far from treasured.
A final point on the manner in which Cecil was killed is how totally unnecessary it was. No one needs to kill a lion. And no human needs to kill animals for food either. We actually benefit greatly by not doing so—in our health, the environment, and with feeding the hungry of the world. The only reason to eat animals is taste preference, which is just as frivolous as Palmer’s desire to kill a lion and both boil down to the childish impulse of “but I wanna.” [tweet this]
Now let’s look at the fact that Cecil was a park favorite (in the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe). As I said in the Yulin video, many people object to the killing of dogs as a large number of them were said to be family pets. They had names, just like Cecil, and were loved, just like Cecil.
Well, our victims may not have names we know, but they certainly have names and identities within their own species. We may not love them and visit them and take photos, mostly because we don’t want to see what they’re experiencing, but it doesn’t make their suffering any less valid or any less horrific or any less real.
It’s the “Babe the pig, Finding Nemo, and Bambi phenomenon”: give an animal a name and a story and we want to root for them. Keep them nameless and anonymous and we could care less. [tweet this]
Brent Stapelkamp, a field researcher with Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, who knew Cecil perhaps better than anyone else, said, “Cecil was the ultimate lion, he was everything that a lion represents to us as humans: large, powerful, but regal at the same time.” (As quoted in National Geographic). Strange that we don’t have this reverence for other animals. Cows, bulls in particular, are incredibly large, powerful and regal. But while Cecil is fit for our reverence, cows are fit for our burgers, shoes, and handbags. [tweet this]
Now in regards to Cecil being protected for a conservation study, we tend to always value certain species over others. Save the whales, stop the Japanese from killing dolphins, express horror and disgust at the Yulin consumption of dogs, but screw the cows, chickens and pigs, unless you’re in India then revere the cows and don’t eat pigs. It’s all arbitrary.
Now to the repercussions for Cecil’s remaining pride. Due to the social structure of lion prides, it’s possible that Cecil’s death will result in the deaths of his cubs and brothers.
Well, the systematic killing of animals that the majority of us participate in many times a day certainly jeopardizes families. Our victims usually never get to be with their families, who are always, and I mean always, sentenced to just as horrific of a life and death. Dairy, for example, separates mothers and babies and sends those babies to confinement and slaughter.
The carcass on plates or the fluid in our glass has cause untold more suffering, death, and familial heartbreak than Palmer’s actions in this instance ever could. [tweet this]
Now a final few notes. Zimbabwe’s environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri, stated in regards to Cecil’s death, “this must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all genuine, animal-loving conservationists who believe in sustainable utilization of natural resources.”(As quoted by cnn) If you missed my video on everything wrong with environmentalism, you may not know that animal agriculture is actually one of the leading causes of global species extinction, far more pervasive than poaching.
And for those who say “well our food animals are raised to be eaten, Cecil wasn’t,” again I will challenge that mentality.
How does breeding, confining, abusing, and killing an animals for food make it okay because that was our intention all along? Where exactly is the logic in that? If I had a child and raised that child all the while my intention was to kill it when it was three years old, how does my intention validate my action? It certainly doesn’t make the death of the individual any more pleasant.
Being raised for the sole purpose of being killed and consumed also by default leads to a far more horrific life because you’re never even seen as valuable: You are a commodity as soon as you are born, an object for consumption from day one.
Now if you made it all the way through this video post, I would ask you to take a step back from the emotional outrage and really take this opportunity to look at your own actions and honestly see if there’s any discontinuity there.
Yes, the slaughter of Cecil is heartbreaking, and as a vegan I’m against the slaughter of any animal, but it’s important to understand the sheer insanity of global outcry at the death of one lion from the very mouths that moments before and moments after will be chewing on the carcass of an animal who was just as sentient, just as if not more horrifically murdered than Cecil, and without anyone there to mourn their loss, shame their killer, or make a shrine to their memory. [tweet this]
I hope this was helpful and informative. Again, feel free to contact me if you want visual proof of some of what I described. If you found this compelling and helpful, please share it around to help others come to grips with the collective discontinuity of our actions. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
— Emily Moran Barwick
sally anne hubbard says
I agree. I am sure that a lot of people that are outraged about Cecil eat animals 3 times a day.
I saw the video of Jimmy Kimmel almost crying about Cecil but yet I never heard him say he was vegan or vegetarian or involved with any animal welfare causes. It was phony to me and just for attention. If you fight for one animal you should be fighting for all.
If you are upset by Cecil’s death then you should be upset by the death of any animal.
Just because you don’t kill an animal before you eat it, you are still guilty.
The comparison and contrast between Cecil’s killing (what many of us vegans would call his murder, but hope that doesn’t prevent any non-vegans from reading rest of comment here..) and those of “food animals” was powerful – especially as you touched on the main arguments point-by-point, Emily, comparing each point. Good ‘food for thought’ for your viewers and when we speak to non-vegan friends, you’ve given us more tools in the toolkit (I prefer that term to “ammo” though I’m guilty of using that term too sometimes)
What do we kill almost as often? LANGUAGE:
So my own rant is about mainstream media coverage:
1. articles say “killing game…” they mean, “killing animals”. Tic tac toe is a game, an animal is not a “game”, but it hurts less to hear about killing or hunting “game” than “animals”…so out come the euphemisms
2. articles write about “flying the trophy back in an airline” they mean, “flying the carcass” or “flying the dead body” (or parts therefore). Again, euphemism.
Hey just got an idea, I know you’ve talked about lots of EUPHEMISMS over the dozens of past videos, did you do one focusing on euphemisms, and misleading language? :)
Another great contrast in vfideo is how powerful and strong cows are…great vegan line “which would you prefer plow your field, ox (relative of cows) or a lion?” I heard years ago stuck w/me but the contrast Emily raises is powerful: why is one “majestic” and not the other?
I fear there are at least two answers, not one. The obvious is the need to hide the ugly reality from a world of meat eaters hence euphemisms like “beef” instead of “cow” but also, hence not seeing cows as majestically powerful creatures which they are.
But I fear second reason is: our violence-worship, our worship of “winners” who “win” by defeating (or killing) others. Watch youtube videos of lions dying of hunger or injury by rhino (rare) and so many comments say “so sad” and far FAR fewer say “oh well, it’s the order of nature” but they run to that “it’s nature” excuse when they see animal killed by a predator, even if the predator gets bored and doesn’t eat the animal is just killed! Yet so many more tears over a dead apex predator. I fear the reason is: we as a society as a collective psyche, we IDENTIFY with killers. Without shame, but as a matter of pride. That needs to change if humanity is to survive.
I know people think it’s ‘extreme’ of me to criticize the fact that when we love music we talk about “that music punches face!” or “that video is great, what a face-punching video that is” (oops, I meant to type, “ass kicking”, same thing) but the way we use language to normalize violence is part of the problem. It used to be “extreme” (look it up if you don’t believe me) to oppose Child Labor in mines and sweatshops in the U.S., it used to be “extreme” to stand for GLBT, especially for bi and trans rights, it’s seen as extreme to be for animal rights…
So it may take until long after I’m dead but I will not tire of pointing out the madness of normalizing and even admiring violence including in our “kick ass” language that’s like using “punches face” as a compliment, while we criticize others and even criticize ourselves as “pricks” and “dicks” and “twats” so violence stands for “good” but shame and hate against our own bodies or others…
Last comment – glad someone else named Kimmel – I give him an Orwell double-think award more specifically because an argument HE made was, after all his tears about Cecil, was to his disclaimer that he is “not against hunting” if…and then he listed several if’s…one of them was, “if it’s part of your culture”…he was probably thinking of aboriginals, Native Americans, etc, but guess what Kimmel, hunting and treating non-human animals as commodities and as objects is part of modern-day mainstream CULTURE….that culture is what led to or played a large role in that dentist thinking that it would be ok or even ‘cool’ and ‘kick ass’ to kill a lion as ‘sport’ (I’d love to see an interview with a vegan/AR Native American, btw, otherwise so many people shy away from criticizing that…I don’t think we should shy away from criticizing killing of animals like that)
A small correction of a mistake that many of the media are making. Cecil was not stalked for 40 hours after he was shot with the crossbow. After Cecil was shot, the guides and the killer went to a location to sleep and rest. It is not clear how many hours of sleep and rest. Many trophy hunters are appalled by this. All we know for sure is Cecil had a kill shot 40 hours later.
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
ah thank you.
I guess in some sense the outrage is hypocritical but that is assuming that the omnivore ,the meat eater holds cows and pigs and chickens etc on equal footing with the death of a lion a dog , or one of the “we don’t eat this animal”.The challenge for the vegan is getting the non vegan to feel the same outrage for the killing of Cecil as the killing of the chicken for the awesome mcnuggets I got from mc Donald’s. Until you can get the meat eater to see a chickens life in the same value as Cecil’s life , I really don’t see the hypocrisy argument working and what is worse you risk alienating people away from the vegan cause.
I get that mourning for Cecil then eating a hamburger is a bit funky but would you rather have the alternative? Would you rather have no outrage at all , would you rather have omnivores not care ?
I know in a perfrct world the outrage of Cecil would equal the outrage of the cow but we are not there yet. If the society is to go vegan it is going to take time , and it will be done in baby steps. The outrage over Cecil may be the first step in a long process to people going vegan, would you rather have no step at all?
There are only 20,000 wild lions left i all of Africa. Cecil was an endangered species. You don’t kill endangered species for sport. You are destroying vital gene pools. And reducing the ability for these endangered animals to survive in the wild.