Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Thoughts on the Lion-Killing Dentist

I have a range of feelings and thoughts about the Minnesota-dentist-kills-Cecil-the-lion story.

1. People who eat cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, fish, turkeys, and other animals every day don't have a lot of weight with me on this topic. Differentiating your animal killing from the dentist's is unthoughtful at least.

2. At the same time, killing for pure sport and a trophy is as vacuous as it is reprehensible. And I can't help feeling ashamed that he's from Minnesota.

3. Spending $54,000 to get that lion trophy (plus airfare, hotel, and other costs) adds insult to the injury. That's more than the median household income in the U.S. As a Star Tribune letter writer put it today, "I cannot help thinking of the many who cannot afford dental care even with insurance, while this man, Walter H. Palmer, makes so much that he can pay to hunt and kill a lion in Africa for sport." (Letter by Rosemary Rocco, Maple Grove, Minn.) Some people really do have too much money.

4. The killing of the lion gets all sorts of attention, though, while people die every day from bad actors worldwide and we never hear a thing about it. People working in sweatshops all over the place, kids dying from exposure to lead from mining in Nigeria, sex/rape tourists in too many countries to count...

But Walter Palmer and his compound bow are clearly not a part of the solution, either. Here are a few facts from the Star Tribune's locally written stories (here and here) that may not have made it into national media:

  • Palmer is "among two dozen hunters who have completed what’s known as the North American Super Slam, taking all 29 huntable big-game species" with a bow.
  • Palmer is "a very driven man…He lives an intense, fast-paced life, and hunting is a great passion. He’s taken all five of the dangerous Big Five of African game, including a rhinoceros..." Great! How admirable.
  • Among the 43 kills Palmer has listed with the big-game hunting group Safari Club International are an African elephant and a polar bear. (Safari Club International has 55,000 members worldwide, including around a 1,000 Minnesotans.)
  • Safari hunters like Palmer arrange their trips through businesses with names like Luxury Hunts. The spokesman for Luxury Hunts (not involved in the Palmer lion killing) blamed the local guides: “If he bought a lion hunt and they take him on a lion hunt, he [doesn’t] know where you’re going. The finger should be pointed at the professional hunter, not the hunter himself.” Sounds like an easy excuse to me, rich man.
  • Palmer killed a Wisconsin black bear in 2008 and then lied about where he had killed it; he could have gotten five years in prison, but instead got a year of probation and a fine of $3,000. And the next year, he paid a $127,500 settlement to his former receptionist (also a patient of his), who claimed he made comments about her breasts, buttocks and genitalia. Great guy, am I right?
  • After Palmer and his guides caught up with the wounded lion and the guides shot it to death, they tried to destroy the tracking collar.
Finally, did anyone else notice how the media (including NPR) keep referring to the local guides as "African" guides instead of Zimbabwean guides? Because our media doesn't know that Africa is a continent, not a country.


Barbara said...

I have a range of feelings/responses to this, too. In no organized order:

My sister and her partner depend on his deer and turkey hunting to feed them for a large part of the year. I have no problem with this, although I have been a vegetarian since 1979. I have a problem with people who think that meat grows in plastic packages in the grocery store. And I have a real problem with people who kill and take the head and skin and waste most of the body.

I shared the outrage on the internet, but like you I also wonder why we aren't as outraged about the bad things that happen to people. I don't have an answer to that one.

I could almost have accepted the "blame the local guides" story, right up until they all tried to destroy the tracking collar.

Even if I believed in "sport" hunting, where is the sport in having his guides lure the lion to a specific spot so he could shoot him? And how does he get to claim to have made the kill with his bow and arrow, when in fact the guides killed the lion with a gun?? How many of his North American Super Slam and his Big Five of African game were actually "his" kills? So all of these animals didn't even die for sport.

And finally (sorry for the long comment), I am tired of the people on the internet saying that Zimbabwe needed this man's $54,000. One of the first things I read from the Hwange National Park was that tourists coming to take pictures of Cecil brought in much more money, and that would have continued over the lion's lifetime.

Daughter Number Three said...

Great points, Barbara!