Trophy hunting is dreadful whether it occurs in the United States or the rest of the world. It should be banned everywhere.
The worldwide outrage over the killing of Cecil, beloved lion of Zimbabwe citizens, was justified. Trophy hunting is inhumane. It is unsportsmanlike.
The case of Cecil is particularly abhorrent. An American trophy hunter lured him to his death from Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. The culprit: Walter Palmer, a dentist from Bloomington, Minn.
Cecil, a tourist attraction and subject of research by academics at Oxford University, was wounded by a bow and arrow shot by Palmer. Then the lion was lured out of the park with bait. Palmer tracked Cecil for 40 hours before fatally shooting him with a gun.
Palmer had the head severed, intending to take it home as a trophy until thwarted by Zimbabwe officials.
This is hardly sport. He should be extradited to Zimbabwe for criminal trial.
A sign posted on the door of Palmer’s dental office read: “Rot in hell.” One demonstrator outside his office screamed into a megaphone: “Murderer!”
Palmer apologized as people usually do after a dreadful deed or having uttered a racist slur. Apologies can’t bring back the dead or erase the racism. Palmer went into hiding in shame and became the center of a firestorm over the ethics of trophy hunting.
Trophy hunting is undertaken by the obscenely wealthy who pay tens of thousands to kill protected animals. A Texas man once paid $350,000 to hunt and kill a rhino in Namibia. Palmer paid $50,000 to kill Cecil, a 13-year-old lion with a jet black mane.
Social media stirred world outrage. However, the old-fashioned newspaper letter is better written, longer, more thoughtful and even philosophical. Take this letter to the San Francisco Chronicle from James Blackman of San Francisco:
“The lion represents pride, family, majestic beauty, a creature to both fear and admire. The lion embodies everything America holds dear–at a distance. He is a symbol of the great wild that once was. The death of Cecil represents the vast capitalistic destruction of that wild.”
Richard Conniff is the author of “The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth.” Conniff is a hero. He is a trophy hunter with a great difference: he shoots with a camera. His subject: black rhinos in Namibia.
Most trophy hunters kill rhinos and elephants to sell their lucrative horns. They are what Conniff calls “coldhearted, soulless zombies, criminal gangs driven by perverse consumer appetite.” To him, rhinos are magnificent animals, like ancient triceratops come back to life.
Personally, even domestic hunting is bothersome. I have never forgotten a Reader’s Digest account of a deer hunt by a father and his young son I read 70 years ago.
They were having no luck until the father glimpsed a deer in the distance. He instructed his son to stand still while he circled around and drove the deer toward him.
Just as he planned, the father succeeded. When the deer loomed right in front of the boy, the youth gazed in admiration–and slowly lowered his rifle. When his dad rushed up, he asked why he didn’t shoot the deer that stood right in front of him.
“It was too beautiful to kill,” the lad replied.
The father, instead of being angry, gently said: “My son, you have learned compassion.”
Jake Highton is an emeritus professor of journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)