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A Hunter By Any Other Name

It is surely the case that by now, people all over the planet have heard of Walter Palmer, the dentist from Minnesota who cruelly and mercilessly lured a protected lion off a game reserve in Zimbabwe, shot it with a bow and arrow, then tracked it for 40 agonizing hours, before finally shooting, skinning and beheading it. It is rumoured he paid $50,000 for the 'privilege'.

​The downside for Mr Palmer is that the lion just happened to be Cecil, one of the most famous in the world, tracked by no less than Oxford University as part of a study project, and beloved by countless thousands who visited Hwange National Park for his approachability and apparently friendly disposition towards humans. He was the leader of his pride, and leaves behind orphaned cubs who will now likely be slaughtered by other male lions seeking to gain control of the pride. Walter faces 15 years in a Zimbabwean jail for activities he is trying to claim he didn't know were illegal. The expedition of this lengthy sentence will doubtless be fuelled by the storm of protest that is building all around the world by people who are as disgusted and horrified as I am at what this man has done.

But Walter's crimes don't stop there. He has been in trouble before for shooting black bears where he shouldn't, and he even had to pay out $127,000 to an ex employee in settlement of a sexual harassment suit. So I guess we can have a pretty good guess at what kind of an individual this dentist is. The fact that he seems to be very good at his job does not, in my mind, compensate in any way for the multitude of pictures that are available of him smiling over the barely dead corpses of other beautiful creatures he has mindlessly slaughtered in pursuit of "A sport I love". They include rhinoceros, leopard, and elephant, as well as the more common fodder for hunters, like elk and antelope. But these at least were killed legally.

Now if you haven't stopped at this point and reeled in disgust at that last sentence, you might miss the whole point of this particular blog. Legally killed? That means he had a hunting permit that he'd paid a great deal of money for that granted him the right to pursue peaceful creatures who posed no threat to anyone, whose only intention was to remain alive, and execute them so as to make trophies to adorn his wall. How is that legal? How can a human grant someone the right to do that? What is the source of the law that grants us jurisdiction over everything that walks the planet, beyond the exercise of force brought to bear upon the meek by the mighty?

I'm angry. Can you tell? I wrote a nice note to Mr Palmer and left it as Google feedback for his dental practice in Minnesota. I wished him all the things that he has brought upon the helpless innocents whose lives he has ended. My feedback was one of the tamer ones. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's angry.


What good will the anger do? It certainly won't bring back Cecil or save his cubs. It won't expedite the capture and extradition of the mysteriously missing Walter. And it won't prevent him from buying his way out of this tricky situation. But the worst thing of all is that it won't stop him from hunting again, and it won't stop the countless other rich businessmen who fancy themselves as glamorous big game hunters and are prepared to shell out a hefty sum for the privilege of massacring harmless creatures on these no-lose, guaranteed kill, shooting rats in a barrel safaris.

In truth, my anger is not just at Cecil, it's at Rebecca Francis, the woman who took a 'selfie' alongside the corpse of the exquisite and oh so gentle giraffe she had just slain; and Kendall Jones, the Texan teenager who is already a renown butcher of African big game; and Fred Leonard who, despite open heart surgery has made multiple trips to Africa to kill the more than 75 animals that adorn the walls at his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and David Reinke who has paid more than $215,000 for the copious quantities of souls he has terminated; and Georgi Brilling who paid $150,000 to end the life of a desperately endangered black rhino and was so awed by the experience he just had to touch around the edges of the rhino's still open eyes, and then 'bag' another. Do you get the idea? This thing that Walter Palmer has done is nothing new, and it goes on right under our noses with nothing said and nothing changed that might prevent the gruesome tragedies that result.

And of course, it's not just African big game. It's whales and dolphins and bears and cougars and beavers and elk and moose; to say nothing of those beings we have classified as verminous like foxes and badgers and wolves and coyotes and rabbits and hares and so many more I've missed out. And then there are those who we simply regard as food, for whom there is no regard or sympathy beyond the glib acceptance that hideous death is 'their lot'. And we seem to believe that all of these magnificent creatures are ours to issue licenses (or not) to exterminate for pleasure or pastime or sport or tradition or necessity or whatever lame, callous, vile excuse we can conjure to make 'murder' sound 'right"; and that's quite apart from the righteous 'food' justification.

Here's what I believe:

  • The claim of provenance over other species is a distortion of universal truths regarding rights to life. Any belief in the possession of proprietary claims over any other living creature is a misconception that we must all ultimately dispossess themselves of.

  • The way in which beings treat one another will always be an indication of not only their personal state of evolution, but a reflection of what a whole species has decided is acceptable.

  • Allowing injustices to result through passive acquiescence or 'turning a blind eye' is a tacit endorsement that holds as much sway in the affairs of mankind as a wholehearted statement of personal approval.

  • All those who find what they observe (in the status quo they are a part of) unacceptable should actively pursue change by not only altering their own actions but by seeking to divert the course of action pursued by the majority.

  • The word 'hunter' is misspelt.

What's your truth?

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