Cecil the Lion and Walter the Dentist
Ivor Cutler used to distribute stickers saying ‘Save the Amoeba’. His point was that smaller, less photogenic creatures deserved protection as well as Whales and Tigers and Elephants. Our confusion about nature and the environmental crisis is everywhere to be seen. The response to Walter Palmer killing a lion has been in turns positive and awful but mostly just really confused.
In a bizarre tangent Simon Jenkins uses it to defend the entire practice of ‘conservation hunting’ writing: “I eat meat sometimes, and my garden is afflicted with vermin I would readily slaughter. But in Botswana I was mostly left wondering what would Britain’s reaction be if hundreds of well-heeled Africans arrived to abuse us for not protecting “the world’s” red squirrels and songbirds. We would think it most rude.” Though not, presumably, as rude as raiding, pillaging and exploiting your entire continent over a 200 year period?
Over at the Times, someone, somewhere, thought this cartoon (right) was a good idea.
Both Walter (the Dentist) and Cecil (the Lion) are now famous, but Cecil’s fame is an odd sort. For many, including Palmer, killing Cecil was bad because he was a famous lion, not because he was a lion, or not because he was a wild animal. In the fucked-up world of ‘canned hunting’ (breeding animals for shooting) the commodification of wildlife is complete. This isn’t okay. The ridiculous argument that hunting supports conservation is such a farcical confusion of values it needs to be challenged. Nature has intrinsic value. It doesn’t gain value because its profitable. Stating the bloody obvious: that’s the problem, not the solution.
You don’t try and resolve the complete commodification of the natural world by selling Ivory, Rhino horns and shooting Lions. The argument that ‘I could stop shooting you but you’d probably die’ isn’t just morally wrong its logically stupid.
The whole hunting industry is a combination of a weird culture of male impotence and advanced retro imperialism. Louis Theroux is right to be worried about the ‘the sun glinting off his biceps’ in this photo of him with a leopard. The whiff of slightly desperate over-compensation from these hunting photos is pretty clear but as Theroux also points out it doesn’t really work out as a sign of great bravery and manliness :
“I think the idea is that you are pitting yourself against a fearsome creature, armed only with a hand-powered and relatively primitive weapon. But this is pretty bogus, since the only bow-hunter who faces a lion is going to have men with guns, loaded and cocked, standing either side of him in case something goes wrong.”
Looking at the flood of images of the American hunters online, you can’t help also thinking that this is an expression of America’s culture of gun violence being exported around the world.
These wee-willied retro colonialists just need pith helmets to complete the look. Confusing ‘killing things’ with ‘saving things’ has a long history. Here’s Prince Philip (below) enjoying a spot of Tiger Hunting whilst head of WWF. More radge than raj.
But to argue that Big Game Hunting is part of a sustainable future is a spiral of stupidity that ignores our role in imperialism and unfolding omnicide. A natural world so despoiled and distorted out of equilibrium needs a far deeper response than either ‘Get the Dentist’ or ‘hunting brings lots of money to conservation’.
Time reports: “The problem does not stop with lions. Poachers killed between 15 and 20 rhinos in the country in 2014, 60 rhinos in 2013 and 84 (the peak) in 2008. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 60% of the rhino population in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was killed between 2003 and 2005″ (Prepare to get angrier).
The freak culture of hunting is a celebration of a world that is out of control, a hyper-commercialised blood-lust that thrives on destroying the natural.
We are dangerously out of kilter with the real world and our collection of our online trophy-killer-selfies are just the apex of that crisis.
Cecil’s not Aslan but his death deserves a better response than he’s getting.