Thursday, August 6, 2015

our stern belief

"We should have gotten steaks, 'cause they don't have legs and run around."
> Woody Allen, Annie Hall

Part of the reason many people have had a strong response to the killing of Cecil the lion is, I think, our deeply ingrained psychological and emotional denial of death.  There's an automatic mental reaction where we re-write the story -- the person (or animal) wouldn't have died if they only hadn't been doing such-and-such, or hadn't been in particular place at the wrong time, etc.

We hear of a death, and it reminds us of our own -- coming sometime in the future.  And we fight against this knowledge -- No!  re-writing the story, re-arranging occurrences:

-- Minnesota dentist was horrible, to lure Cecil out from safety, he should not have done that...

-- The Russian free diver shouldn't have been free diving, she might still be alive...

-- JFK -- shouldn't've been riding in that open car...


When these memories came back to me about people I'd heard of -- 2 local and 1 with a local connection -- who had supposedly shot gigantic and exotic animals overseas -- I also thought of this:  Why was I even hearing about these things?  Why tell me?  Well...because they were tellin'-everybody...(!) (?)  Desperate for attention and for everybody (everybody? -- well, everybody they could find) to think they were great, to know they were "great."

I did not get a feeling of "you are great" or "he is great" -- felt, instead, low-grade dismay.  ("Don't do this!  Don't tell me!  Jesus!")  I got the impression of -- this guy (high-up company guy) is really-rich-and-powerful and "I-associate-with-him-now, and I just cannot stop myself from bubbling over with reflected glory from his marvelous - ness. ..."  (Marvelosity?)

One of the people telling me the Great Tale was someone I had admired ("Please!  Stop talking!  Don't take my respect and Good Feeling and work-it-down!") ... he told me the company guy had His Own Plane, and he smiled as if he was trying to not-smile, but failing, and said, "He's got everything on that plane."


A lion at the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington D.C.

contemplating snow...


CNN:  After Cecil's death, a spokesperson for the government of Botswana said, "It is our stern belief that safari hunting of threatened species such as lions has the potential to undermine our regional anti-poaching efforts as it encourages illegal trade which in turn promotes poaching."

Botswana outlawed trophy hunting in 2013, along with Zambia.


Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker:

The shock at his cruel death -- killed and beheaded by a vacationing dentist -- was so widely shared in certain circles that it soon became a subject for mockery.  "Going to start dressing like a Lion," the comedian Davon Magwood tweeted, with a picture of himself dressed so.  "That way cops know that if they kill me, white people will avenge me."

...A way to explain why Cecil is a headline and so many other wounded animals, not to mention humans, are not:  the story of his death provokes deep feelings about injustice and unfairness.  The dentist's plan was so complex -- involving so much money (in Zimbabwean terms, a fortune) for the services of someone who lured the lion away from safety -- that not even the spurious sense of dignified combat or pursuit that hunters wish to ascribe to their acts seemed present."

Jarrod Heil, Sports Editor - Central Florida Future:

"Dr. Palmer,...I want you to stop hiding and face the music."


The Denver Post:

The Cecil story appalled many of the hunting and fishing writers gathered in Bozeman, Mont., by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.  The partnership represents sportsmen dedicated to maintaining wildlife habitats.

Its members often see themselves

squeezed between other environmental groups hostile to hunting and the "slob hunters" they believe sully the sport. 

And they feel underappreciated as protectors of the wild environment.  Hikers and campers pay far less for conservation than they do.

"Cecil was an absolute disaster on multiple fronts," Don Thomas, a well-known outdoor writer and co-editor of Traditional Bowhunter Magazine, told me.  From what is known, Thomas places most guilt on the dentist's hunting guides.  It is their responsibility to know the laws and see that hunters abide by them.

"The hunter's errors seem to be more a matter of

sleaze factor

than of illegality," Thomas added, though he is not cleared of the latter.

But Thomas also has a problem with the Disney-fication of Cecil -- "taking a wild lion, giving it a name and turning it into a faux pet as a tourist attraction."  The biggest threat to African lions, he explained,

is not hunters but the loss of wild habitat through human overpopulation, development, and climate change.

What is ethical hunting?

It's not killing an animal who has no legitimate means of escape.  It's not taking an animal who has been around people a lot and has lost its instinctual fear of humans.  Collared and long studied by biologists, Cecil would seem to fit into that second category.

Ethical hunters have long condemned "trophy mania"...


Phillip Gentry, Greeneville Online:

My biggest issue with this story is the negative light it has cast upon those of us who actually hunt the way hunting was intended.

One of the highest tenets upheld by a true hunter is fair chase.  That means the hunter enters into the animal's world -- the animal has no boundaries -- and the hunter takes on that animal where the animal is not impeded.

...Personally, I see no thrill, no gain in that kind of hunting ["canned" hunts].  Nor would I enjoy traveling to a far-off land where I don't understand the habits of the creatures I seek.  If I did no scouting, no preparation, no long hours in the stand earning the right to take a shot at a magnificent animal, I'm not hunting, I'm killing.

Even in situations in which I might travel to hunt or fish and did not put in time to pattern, understand and outwit,

I still want to know that my quarry is free to not be there when I show up. 

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from the many fishing guide and hunting outfitter friends I have is that more and more, the society of outdoor sportsmen are becoming more about "how big," "how majestic" or "how many can I get in the cooler?" rather than living and enjoying the experience.

In the instant gratification world that we live in, too many sportsmen who want to call themselves hunters and fishermen confuse

the art, the sport and beauty of being part of the outdoors


simply killing and reeling.


("he's got EV-rything, on that plane...")



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