Killing animals: the Cecil outcry

Devlin Brown, digital editor. Picture: twitter

Devlin Brown, digital editor. Picture: twitter

Cecil the lion is no more. Millions of people around the world who had never heard of him are gathering in a cyber-mob ready to lynch the dentist who took his life.

The rage is justified in that all indications are it was an illegal hunt, and it was a lion. What makes it worse is that this giant cat had a name and a collar – and if something has a name humans tend to love it more. This was not a Kudu that supposedly makes nice biltong, this was a feline celebrity that was shot only for the trophy. Some among the angry twitterati and late-night radio crowd have called for the dentist to be shot with a bow. Illegal hunting must be stamped out at all costs. Perpetrators need to be brought to book and prosecuted – not threatened with violence. In SA we have learnt what irresponsible words can do.

There is very little logic or reason for a big cat or any other inedible animal to be killed. The next question is: should any hunting be allowed, even antelope? Again, the anti-hunting lobby is quite vociferous, and they are entitled to be. “Real men shoot animals with cameras”, they have proclaimed.

Killing an innocent and defenceless animal is usually the reason for hating hunting. And it makes sense – why would stalking around in the bush with a rifle and powerful scope be considered a fair sport? Imagine running around in the bush and being told to hide from someone with a rifle.

The hunting lobby will always point out that legal and controlled hunting benefits conservation with license concessions and brings massive money into the region. Callers into a radio talk show were waxing lyrically about how game numbers in many areas are far higher than they were before hunting was introduced. It is a kind of irony, they said, that killing animals results in far more – with their habitat also being protected and returned to its indigenous state.

It does not matter what hunters say – the anti-hunting lobby will always argue on emotional and ethical grounds. And they are entitled to this. But where it sits strangely is when one considers meat eating as a culture. How is an animal which is bred for eating and lured into an abattoir, then killed “humanely” any different from hunting? Because there is no pain? Because they do not know they are dying? How can we be sure? That cow may be terrified.

It makes no sense that the same person who is militantly against hunting will happily walk into a supermarket and buy a pack of lamb chops. Is that meat grown in the warehouse? Of course not. But that lamb chop didn’t have a name and didn’t have a collar. It didn’t have Ricky Gervais going ballistic on twitter.

There are very fine lines between emotions, beliefs and accepted practises, and a boatload of hypocrisy too. Some anti-hunting lobbyists will claim they have no problem with the animal being shot for the plate – and perhaps that is where the line should be drawn. After all, every hunter I have ever met has eaten his Impala as biltong and boerewors. But then again, are they “real men”? All they shoot with their cameras are their bloody selves holding up their trophy baking in the African sun. You decide. But do so when you buy your next lamb chop.


today in print