The animal instincts of hashtag activists

The death of Cecil the lion seems to have the US in an uproar. The unlawful killing of a Zimbabwean lion by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer has incited a disgusting bout of social media shaming so severe that the hunter has gone into hiding. And who can blame him?

Hundreds of millions have crawled out of the woodwork to berate Dr. Palmer for indulging in such a cruel hobby. How dare he stimulate Zimbabwe’s broken economy with a $54,000 permit to shoot a single lion! It’s cruel to hunt wild animals for sport! Yet no one seems outraged about the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s 91st birthday celebration, where guests dined on baby elephant, among a menagerie of other animals, including lion. Yes, lions are a threatened species, but if the real focus of these protests is against trophy hunting then people should be channeling their anger in a more effective manner, petitioning to end such activities, not extradite a misguided dentist with an expensive hobby.

Cecil had been part of an ongoing Oxford University research project since 2008. The study of Cecil and his pride provides a great deal of information on lions, how they act in their environment, and how to better understand the threats faced by these big cats. And while the World Wildlife Fund does not necessarily condone trophy hunting it “accepts or supports hunting in a very limited number of contexts where it is culturally appropriate, legal and effectively regulated, and has demonstrated environmental and community benefits.” Not exactly the PETA standards that incensed social justice warriors can use in their arguments. Nor are protesters quick to volunteer the fact that Zimbabweans don’t seem to care about the dead lion. Though lions are revered and respected in Zimbabwe, they are also terribly feared, wreaking havoc on village life. Therefore this respect doesn’t prevent Zimbabweans from hunting or permitting the hunting of these animals. In fact, the country depends on the tourism industry for their economy.

Still, the White House is reviewing a petition to extradite Walter Palmer to Zimbabwe. The highest powers in the US are wasting not just time, but taxpayers’ dollars reviewing a petition against someone who did everything in his power to hunt a lion legally. Not that Palmer is squeaky clean. This is not the first time the Minnesota dentist has faced heat for hunting big game. In 2008 Palmer faced prison time for lying to a federal agent about killing a bear. Regardless, it will be extremely difficult to prosecute him, as he was merely following the directions of a professional hunter he had paid to guide him. The Lion Aid charity states that “A client usually has no idea about the laws and regulations of the country he is hunting in – he just buys a safari and then places himself in the hands of his professional hunter guide. Finding the client could be interesting to let him tell his side of the story, but in terms of legal prosecution this person is hardly important.”

Looking at the situation objectively, it becomes clear that the real fault lies with hunter and guide Theo Bronkhorst. Yes, it is totally legal to bait lions in Zimbabwe, just as it is not illegal to kill radiocollared lions. Bronkhosrt has said, “We were never meant to hunt on the land where this lion was shot. At the last minute I had to divert from a concession [hunting area] about eight miles away. …there were four other collared lions shot in the same area this year. If I had been able to take the client where we were due to be, this would not have happened.” Even though it is not illegal to do so, if Bronkhorst knew that four other collared lions had previously been killed in the area, why did he take Walter Palmer to such a “high risk” concession? Allegedly, the bait was set to lure a leopard out, but when Cecil appeared Bronkhorst advised his client to shoot the lion. Since the hunting concession Palmer was taken to has no assigned lion quota, this is the moment that the hunt became illegal. Palmer paid Bronkhorst – the local, the professional – to be his guide; therefore it is Bronkhorts’s responsibility to handle the situation properly and act ethically. Add to the growing list of offenses the fact that Bronkhorst supposedly tried to destroy the radiocollar, and there’s a pretty solid case against the professional hunter.

Unfortunately for the dentist, one shot seems to have justified a social media storm, giving web users what they feel is the right to invade Palmer’s personal life without waiting for the official legal system to run its course. Personal information about Palmer, his family and his business has been published online for all to access. Many people have made threats of physical violence on the dental practice’s social media pages. It is basically the same set of tactics used in every other online harassment campaign, but because almost no one seems to like Palmer it has been deemed acceptable. A shame, since Palmer – while not entirely blameless – is not the true villain in this situation.

It’s great that people are passionate about Cecil’s death, and that they want to preserve and protect natural habitats and the species that inhabit them, but perhaps it would be better if the bigger picture was viewed here. Cruelty in response to cruelty isn’t the answer. No one is innocent, especially in the age of the SJW. So be smart, place blame where blame is due, or you may be next. Oh yeah, and folks, be sure to do your research first.

photo: Daughter#3 / flickr.com / CC BY-SA 2.0

Milan Alley

Milan Alley earned a degree from Florida State University, where she majored in religion and theology. She is currently planning a masters in geo-politics and terrorism. She tweets at @MilanEchevarria.

  • T.delpizzo

    Maybe you should do your research, people are rightly upset ,not just about Cecil , but all trophy hunting, it needs to stop. Walter Palmer said he was sorry….. He was sorry he got caught !. There have been ‘other’ cases brought against him (not just about hunting) . People want to share their opinions…… Just like you just did

  • NormanWells

    This is one of the most balanced articles I’ve seen on this story.