In case you haven’t heard the story, in recent days the world was shaken to see a beloved Zimbabwe lion, Cecil, slaughtered for the pleasure of an American dentist trophy hunter. The lion who had been tagged for research tracking was enticed across the invisible boundary between a protected and unprotected area and was killed by the hunter. The dentist had paid tens of thousands of dollars for the “experience” of getting to hunt the lion.
The dentist, Walter Palmer, engaged in hunting many times and in many places and was even convicted of charges related to an illegal bear kill in 2008. The killing has sparked a flood of outrage, but this kind of thing actually happens around the world every day, including in North America. Killing animals for “sport” or “trophies” is an ongoing, worldwide practice.
Sadly, Walter Palmer is not alone as a trophy hunter, and Cecil the Lion is not the only such victim. There are many large game hunters much like Walter Palmer. Large carnivores like lions, grizzly bears, and leopards are regularly targeted by big-game hunters. Though these animals may seem large and ferocious, they are extremely vulnerable. These types of animals live and roam in large areas and more and more, they are put into conflict with the encroaching infrastructure of humans. Killing animals “for the thrill of it” is barbaric and wasteful, and can’t be justified on environmental, conservation, or economic grounds.
The vegetarian movement is using Cecil as an example of “why cry out for one but kill the other” with juxtaposition between cows, chickens, and the animals that we treat as commodities vs. the outcry for the death of one lion. While that might be a far stretch for some, it does give some pause to the idea that vegetarianism isn’t just worth considering for moral reasons, but also for environmental reasons. The infrastructure required to breed animals for food is part of the problem that’s encroaching in on the habitat of wildlife, and part of why Cecil the Lion was endangered in the first place.
We need to care more about wildlife. We need to care more about habitats. We need to care more about how we treat the environment as a whole. If we look around, it’s clear that we’ve reached a critical moment in the Earth’s history. In so many ways, we’re in a global eco-crisis. It’s time to redefine our relationships with the nature around us. The population and our consumptive demand are overwhelming the planet’s systems. Yes, it’s time to end trophy hunting. But it’s also time to care for all wildlife, big and small, and to make the changes, also big and small, that will start to shift the way that human beings interact with animals and the environment around the world. The shift in consciousness has been triggered, now we need the follow through.
Jennie Lyon is a green lifestyle writer and the owner of Sweet Greens, the award-winning green lifestyle blog. She posts on simple, fun ways families can go green together – starting with her own. When she isn’t blogging, you will find her paddleboarding, sailing, beach-combing, camping, or spending time with her amazing husband and 14-year old son.