When news of Cecil the Lion’s death and beheading hit the internet, the reaction was swift and severe. Dentist Walter Palmer was given the doxx of all doxxes with a few casual assassination threats thrown in. Even if your personal reaction wasn’t quite so harsh, it’s safe to say that if you had had an appointment at River Bluff Dental this week, it’ll be postponed. Your panicked, last-minute flossing can wait.
The comments on the various Uproxx posts have taken a hard stance, which was neatly summed up by Jimmy Kimmel, “If you’re some A-hole dentist who wants a lion’s head over the fireplace in his man cave so that his douchebag buddies can gather around it and drink scotch and tell him how awesome he is, that’s just vomitous.”
But here’s the rub for those frothing with anger: Palmer probably isn’t a “poacher.” He was using a well-known outfitter that he may very well have assumed was acting completely legally. It was definitely not very sportsmanlike to lure an apex predator out of a protected habitat, shoot it with a crossbow, then decapitate it, but those techniques are par for the course.
Will Palmer serve jail time? Highly doubtful. Not unless he made bribes or it can be proven that he knew his guide was breaking the law. The case against Theo Bronkhorst of Bushmen Safaris and landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu isn’t about their techniques, not even the bit where they tried to destroy Cecil’s transponder. It’s centered on whether or not the duo had the required permits. Assuming they didn’t, it’s surely possible that Palmer was duped. All accounts agree that he paid the advertised rate for his hunt ($55,000), so if we’re playing the “educated guess” game, this very well may indicate that he anticipated it being legal. It’s hard to envision a hunter risking indictment and paying full price.
The possibility that Palmer didn’t knowingly commit a crime doesn’t mean he’s the man of the year. He’s broken the law to kill big animals before. But it’s worth noting: If you find the man repulsive, you’re not just taking a stance against illegal hunting or poaching, you’re taking a stance against big game hunting in general. If you hate Palmer and want to do so within the constraints of a solid logical construct, you’ve officially pushed all in. It’s time to turn your white-hot rage rays toward all big game hunters.
The fact that the lion was a celebrity doesn’t matter much, does it? Is our anger simply fueled by the fact that Cecil was called “Cecil” and not “lion, unnamed”? What about the “canned” captive lion hunting experiences being sold for cut rates? Or perhaps we relate more with lions than buffalo because of their revered position in the animal kingdom? Where do we stand on small game? How might we feel about an American dentist jetting to Africa to shoot a meerkat? Those little sh*ts are cute as hell! What if it had been another apex predator that’s known to hang out near southern Africa, the great white shark? Would that be cool because #TeamDryLand?
Perhaps answering a few of those questions is step number one for all of us. We all have to drawn our own line in the sand and pick a side. Are you officially anti-big-game-hunting? Anti-all-game hunting? Anti-hunting-for-sport? Anti-U.S.-tourist-visiting-Africa-hunting?