Jean Barker

Sentimentalising Cecil

2015-07-31 08:41

Jean Barker

On July 29, Twitter went apeshit. Not over the police shooting of a black driver in Cincinnati. Not over continued deaths in Syria and Iraq. Hell, even Donald Trump’s antics took a back seat to the big news of #CecilTheLion’s death at the hands of American trophy hunter and dentist, Dr Walter Palmer.

This amusing map shows the hotspots for the big news. My first reaction was: "Ugh! as if I needed more reasons to loathe dentists..."

It’s a gut thing - I think trophy hunting is gross. I find it revolting that someone would want to kill something beautiful, especially if they have no intention of eating it. Butterflies in glass cases, and stuffed animal heads on walls, and pictures of ugly white men sitting next to beautiful dead animals, all creep me out. The dead stuffed things are like a formaldehyde-filled corpse of someone you loved - just proof, and a sad shadow of themselves. I also often wonder if the people who get into this shit aren’t just closeted serial killers who never made the jump to human prey…

But the moronic liberal feeding frenzy of the international reaction to Cecil being shot seems completely over the top, and out of touch, for a number of reasons.

The most annoying thing about it is the way in which Hollywood movie stars and hipster douchebags sentimentalised animals, assigning them saintly status.

My favorite stupid remark, which most summarises the extent to which the westernised world can be out of touch, was this one on Facebook from a friend who will not be named, cause I love them anyhow: “No animal deserves to be hunted!”

What? Seriously? Tell that to the Lili the Teenage Gemsbok that Cecil the Lion feasted on last week. “Out of touch” doesn’t cover this nonsense. Animals hunt. Animals are killed in hunts. Lions start eating cute little zebra before they’re even dead. They play with them, just like your beloved kitten plays with crickets on the kitchen floor. They’re mean, okay?

No animal deserves to be hunted?

You know what no animal deserves? No animal deserves to be kept in a cage without light or room to move around, transported miles to a giant killing facility, herded into a killing zoo with thousands of other terrified beasts or fowls and then brutally killed with no thought to its suffering, and with all the emphasis on financial gain. That’s why I eat free range when I can, but still feel guilty because I know they die in gross abattoirs too.

That’s also why I’m not an “animal lover” who keeps pets who need to be fed meat out of cans every day. You know who really deserves to be vilified on Twitter? Vegan cat owners who petition against French people eating horses and Foie Gras, that’s who.

And since this is Zimbabwe’s country, not Beverly Hills’, what was the average Zimbabwean’s reaction?

This is what: “Are you saying that all this noise is about a dead lion? Lions are killed all the time in this country," This from Tryphina Kaseke, a used-clothes seller in Harare. And Joseph Mabuwa, a father of two, said that Zimbabweans never hear Americans speak out "…when villagers are killed by lions and elephants in Hwange." My personal favourite: "What lion?" That’s from acting information minister Prisca Mupfumira. With unemployment at 80% in Zim, they have bigger problems than whether the best-looking lion gets to remain king of the savannah.

What’s not okay

Neither Western hypocrisy nor Zimbabwe’s befuddlement over the fuss being kicked up, make the “hunt” that took place acceptable. The reason for this isn’t that lions are cute, or innocent or even that we all need another reason to hate American dentists for bankrupting us.

Two things really aren’t okay about the way Cecil’s death went down.

The first is that illegal trophy hunting and illegal hunting of protected species affect wildlife resources that are essential to conservation efforts and to the tourism industry in places like Zimbabwe. Seeing this cool old lion was a reason people still took Safaris there. Some rich asshole shouldn’t be allowed to essentially pull rank on an entire country and bribe his way into this.

The second reason: Illegal trophy hunting and hunting of animals for tusks are also used to fund terrorist organisations like Boko Haram, and others. Fact. These dollars go straight into buying weapons, and eventually that means that people die, are raped, and displaced, and suffer.  

This is what I believe we, and Twitter, should be taking seriously.

Jean earned an MFA in Directing and Screenwriting and works in the LA film industry. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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