So, an American dentist pays megabucks to add a lion to his bucket list of hunt trophies. He gets his monies worth with a huge male lion, selected for him by a trusted (by him) personal guide. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know the animal had been ‘Disneyfied’ by a number of researchers who had decided to name him … and this is where I really feel sorry for the beast … “Cecil”. Cecil was special, it seems. Father to many, a supreme hunter, once the scourge of the local impala and zebra population. He was also ‘old’ in lion terms. Whether his cull was legal, moral or necessary is a pretty mute point right now. He’s dead. Live by the sword, die by the sword. The impala and zebra herds won’t be weeping and wailing or gnashing their teeth like the millions of misinformed anti-hunting, social media, armchair snipers who jumped on the ‘Cecil was murdered!’ band-wagon.
What we do know is that ‘The Dentist’, like hundreds of the hunting tourists who visit these reserves to cull the odd, selective animal (usually at the agreement of the wardens and ecologists), pumped a significant fund into the system which exists to preserve the prime animals in a struggling eco-system. Take away that sort of funding and you can kiss goodbye to lions, elephants, tigers, leopards and polar bears. They will be poached to extinction, as is threatened with the rhino. But hey, that’s Africa and Asia … and it seems the death of a single lion causes more of an international outrage than thousands of children dying from drought, aids, malaria et al. In both continents, cities are being plundered and people slaughtered in the name of religion. Bribery and corruption is rife. Millions of pounds of foreign aid and charity donations are being ‘misappropriated’. But hey, WTF, what about the lion?
My evening trawl around the social media sites tonight was swamped with ‘Cecil’ comments. I didn’t see many about starving children or weeping women. I did see the Gervais picture again, stating that anyone who enjoyed seeing animals in pain or dying were c*nts. I, and most hunters, couldn’t agree more. We don’t do ‘suffering’ or ‘cruelty’. We cull quickly, accurately and efficiently. Nor do we enjoy the moment. Gervais, with his completely sanitised urban view of the wild animal, is a sad reflection of how celebrity manipulation of the media has helped mis-inform the general public. He should focus more on how his chicken, beefburger or tofu got on his plate?
My case, of course, isn’t helped by my hunting brethren insisting on putting up ‘trophy pics’ at every opportunity. I’ve never really understood this myself. As a shooting writer and photographer I have to include respectful pictures of shot quarry in magazine articles and books, simply to give credibility to the advice I’m giving … but I never share these on social media. Why would I?
Cecil is dead, long live the next Cecil. His hunters money will help preserve more Cecils (sorry, lions) for our grand-children to see. But … modern education being as it is … I can forsee a day in a future history lesson where the teacher asks “Who killed Cecil the Lion?” and some poor child will put up his hand and say “Please, Miss … I know, I know! It was a c*nt!”
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, August 2015.