The Death of Cecil

2015-07-29 11:53

Of course I am outraged. We all are. My sister is too, as is my mother and wife and anyone who has to pay a premium for kosher chickens. Because, as it happens, there are a number of subjects that make our collective blood boil and get us talking. These include Eskom (in South Africa), the death penalty (anywhere) and canned hunting. And if you are Jewish and observant of the dietary laws, the price of kosher meat can be thrown into this eclectic mix.

So it is little wonder that Walter Palmer, the dentist with unnaturally white teeth and an unnervingly large smile has become this week’s social media villain, after he killed Cecil. Cecil is of course the famous Zimbabwean lion (who sadly I only heard of posthumously). The photos in the press convict Dr. Death of a lot more than the premeditated, unlawful and intentional killing of Cecil but also add a plethora of John and Jane (Does) to this list. Victim after victim after victim culled for his viewing pleasure. His penchant for killing the magnificent and defenceless displays a maniacal need to conquer the vulnerable, and he seems to do so with pride.

But there are aspects to this story that are of concern. A few weeks ago, when the Australian surfer had a run in with one of our local Great Whites (and we are not talking Verwoerd), Fox news anchormen pontificated that if a famous person could be attacked by a shark, who indeed is safe? Our respect for celebrities somehow seems to blur our thinking and makes us lose perspective. What needs to be debated is all aspects of hunting – regulated, legal or not – the possible contribution to conservation (if any) and we need to decide if we object to hunting and if so, in what form. And then it will matter little if Cecil was well known in these parts or if he was simply a homeless lion with no connections.

I have the privilege of co hosting a radio morning show. Whilst on air, listener feedback can only be gauged by calls or by texts received and the sms line is monitored constantly for reaction. My limited experience has shown me that there are some subjects that never fail to elicit passionate and forthright comments and these include the death penalty, Eskom, the price of Kosher chickens (it’s a Jewish Community station after all) and hunting. Unfortunately many critical and vital subjects don’t seem to achieve the reaction they deserve.

The murder of woman by their partners in South Africa (and possibly world wide) is alarming. In the past few years South African men seem to have taken this up a notch and instead of divorcing their spouses or breaking up with their girlfriends (maybe because it means actually having a conversation with them) have gone the murder route (perhaps it just seems to be a little neater). And although the legal cases seem to attract the publicity they deserve, the dark and concerning reason doesn’t seem to.

In no time all since Cecil’s death the whole hunting industry is being looked into. The guide who lured Cecil out of the park, the person who removed his collar, the land owners on which land he was shot have now been charged and the organiser faces wrath of the law. In short, the outrage and public response will be the tail that wags this dog. The publicity that Dr Death is now experiencing along with the public naming and shaming will unquestionably deter others who will think long and hard about the pursuit of this “Sport”. Unfortunately wife and girlfriend killers are not subject to a fraction of the response, and all is the pity.

Our hearts break when we see the destruction of beauty. And even more so when it means the death of animal that stood no chance against the sophistication and cunning of his hunters. Our rage and our sadness is fitting. But perhaps let's consider expanding our anger to include more than just this, more than just Eskom and more than just the price of kosher chickens.

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