Whew. Boy, are we an angry country.
Seldom do I avoid the company of my fellow animal lovers. But this week, I want to put a continent of distance between me and those calling for the demise of the Minnesota dentist who killed a 13-year-old lion in Zimbabwe now known round the world as Cecil — beloved to citizens and the tourists who flocked to see him.
The dentist paid $50,000 to hire two hunters, who strapped an animal carcass onto their vehicle to lure Cecil out of his home in Hwange National Park, where it was illegal to hunt him. Then the dentist shot him with a bow and arrow. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force told CNN that Cecil suffered a slow death, surviving with his wound for 40 hours before the trio tracked him down and killed him with a gun.
Cecil was later skinned. He was also decapitated. Many of us would call this beheading an act of barbarism. Men such as that dentist call it a trophy.
“I’m honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that,” late-show host Jimmy Kimmel said in an emotional monologue Tuesday night. “How is that fun? Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you need to kill things that are stronger than you?”
You’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t named this dentist. I want nothing to do with that witch hunt. Google “Cecil and dentist” and you’ll find his name easily enough, along with all the online threats and calls for his death that have sent the dentist into hiding.
Some of these threats may be coming from your Facebook friends, the same ones who like to post little hearts under pictures of puppies. After the first angry post I saw calling for revenge and listing the dentist’s name and phone number, I gasped. By the tenth one, I shut down Facebook and went for a walk.
Most people are good — I believe that — but there have been moments since the news broke of Cecil’s death this week when I have felt that our numbers are in steep decline.
Time magazine reported this gem of a statement from PETA president Ingrid Newkirk: “If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”
A high road with gallows — this is news to me.
The dentist is hardly the only American who fancies himself a modern-day Crazy Horse — who, by the way, would never have killed an animal for sport. In Smithsonian magazine’s June issue, Susan Orlean profiles “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson, who has an extraordinary relationship with a pride of lions in South Africa.
She writes about the popularity of Cub World, where tourists can cuddle with lion cubs up to 6 months old, and then describes what happens to some of the cubs after they become adults:
The rest of the extra lions end up as trophies in commercial hunts, in which they are held in a fenced area so they have no chance to escape; sometimes they are sedated so that they are easier targets. These “canned” hunts charge up to $40,000 to “hunt” a male lion, and around $8,000 for a female. The practice is big business in South Africa, where it brings in nearly a hundred million dollars a year. Up to 1,000 lions are killed in canned hunts in South Africa annually. The hunters come from all over the world, but most are from the United States.
I’m not going to be one of those people whose eyes bug out as they yell: “Where was your outrage then?” This time, we can name both the hunter and the hunted, with enough gruesome details about Cecil’s death to give us chest pains. This time, it feels so real.
I’m also not going to demand to know why we aren’t worried about everything bad happening to people everywhere. We care about many things, every day.
I do appreciate this tweet from writer Roxane Gay, who is black: “I’m personally going to start wearing a lion costume when I leave my house so if I get shot, people will care.”
Speaking of tweets — the ridiculous kind, of which there are so many — Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio chirped this: “Look at all this outrage over a dead lion, but where is all the outrage over the planned parenthood dead babies.”
Well, yes, we could play that game and join Rubio in making a mockery of the truth, but let’s leave such foolishness to this guy who thinks tweeting a non sequitur proves he should be leader of the Free World.
Yes, we are outraged over the killing of the lion named Cecil, whose only crime was to attract a wealthy human in search of his manhood.
How do we honor this majestic creature?
Here’s an address for you: http://www.wildcru.org. It’s for the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.
They want to save lions like Cecil.
How about you?
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Screengrab: Paula French via YouTube