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?

cartoon1_949492cOver 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.

DSCF1269You 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.

CLGl-hYWUAAF_UzBut 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.



Comments (13)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Rob Gilbert says:

    The piece about Hunting is imbued with integrity and wider application.The confusion of killing and saving animals,the bad manners described by Simon Hoggart of well heeled Africans de crying our behaviour toward songbirds and squirrels,while not mentioning centuries of colonial exploitation is on the nail.
    Passionate life enhancing advocacy.

  2. Chris Chandler says:

    Put all the hunters in a compound with their guns and let them kill one another. At least it would a more even contest.

  3. Donnie McLennan says:

    We (man) killed most of the animals including the predators and then we destroyed the land and environment upon which they used to roam, feed and hunt by felling the forests

    Obviously I am talking about Zimbabwe, India or Brazil – err no – I am talking about Scotland.

    90% of our country has been altered by man, most of the remote wild areas, most assume to be natural are man made by grazing sheep, over stocking of deer (for shooting) and burning vegetation for grouse (for shooting).

    Scotland has a chance to readdress this travesty. Small but encouraging efforts have been made in the reintroduction of the Osprey and Sea Eagle, but why stop there?

    Why not reintroduce the Lynx, wolf, bear, moose and beaver? Appropriately!

    What is more healthy and fulfilling for Scotland, having Scots and tourists visit for example a reserve 100 times the size of Kincraig to see animals in their natural environment? Or as in the case of artificially protected grouse and deer being shot by millionaires? These same millionaires have the same mindset as that nasty callous fool who shot poor old Cecil.

    Problem is that people who like to fire guns and kill beautiful animals tend to be rich and in the uk we know who looks after the rich. We should use this leverage to rid our countryside of absentee landlords with vast tracks of land and replace them with natural countryside, jobs for the many and eco friendly tourism.

    Let Scotland be a beacon!

    1. Stuart Gray says:

      well said.

    2. Clare Galloway says:


      1. Michaela says:

        Brilliant we need to bring the natural ecological system back and begin to focus on how we humans can survive without destroying and killing. If we abolished money, that would rid the world of all the rich and the fat cat power brokers who control everything and we could live in a resource based economy where everything is built to last, where we would all have the very best of what the planet could provide, and we managed the planet as a sustainable resource. Technology which is available today is often not built because there is not enough money, imagine a world where care and sustainability were the decision makers, not money! We have the technology to move to a resource based world and The Venus Project in Florida is offering a glimpse of what could be if we all put our minds to it. I’m not saying its a perfect answer, what I’m saying is I know humans can come up with a better system than the one we live under now and it would be great if we all worked together to help bring it about this well overdue change…..

    3. Saor Alba says:

      Free Scotland.

  4. mike cassidy says:

    A quote from the sequel to the original Jurassic Park.

    “So go ahead, set up base camp right here, or in a swamp, or in the middle of a Rex nest for all I care. But I’ve been on too many safaris with rich dentists to listen to any more suicidal ideas, OK? ”

    Case closed.

  5. Neil Scott says:

    Killing animals for sport is the same white patriarchal privilege that leads to the corporate ravaging of the world, shootings in cinemas and the treatment of anyone with black or brown skin as collateral damage (police thuggery and oil invasions). Glad to see Prince Philip mentioned here. All of our Royals enjoy bloodsports. Some, like Harry, have enjoyed taking that to the level of killing humans.

  6. Tony Rozga says:

    A good piece. The lions fame is so sad. I hope this is a foundation which we can build a real debate about the future of hunting in Scotland. Killing wild animals for personal pleasure is disgraceful. The start of the grouse shooting will soon be under way, reported with great gusto by the BBC. An elite pursuit protected by ignorance: vital to fragile communities?? A barren highland desert suitable for nothing else?? Significant economic contribution??
    If we can protect song birds and foxes then why can’t we protect our red grouse? Unfortunately we will need to endure another year of observing costume clad humans smearing blood on the faces of the new lot, pretending it is a Scottish tradition.

  7. Graeme Purves says:

    The tortured soul that is Vladimir Putin might have merited a mention in this context.

  8. Bloo says:

    ‘wee-willied retro colonialists.. ‘ yup, nice one.

  9. maxi kerr says:

    We have no “bloody right” to hurt any other living thing on this earth.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.