Unless you’ve been hiding from social media for the past few weeks, you know that Cecil, the beloved African lion of Zimbabwe, was lured from the Hwange National Park and killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer to become a trophy on Palmer’s wall.
So what’s happened since? The world has learned that the numbers of animal welfare advocates willing to speak out are large. So large, in fact, that we pissed off some and frightened others.
Rich big game hunters came out of the woodwork to defend their “hobby” by making all sorts of claims: they help save species through the fees they pay, they help the economies of the countries where they hunt, they kill big game because it takes them “back to their roots.” They brazenly posted photos of themselves with their kills on social media platforms in an in-your-face type of campaign. Yet Think Progress posted a thought-provoking article by Beenish Ahmed that breaks down the returns of hunting and killing an animal versus the returns of eco-tourism. Eco-tourism wins hands-down, and the money eco-tourism brings in is more evenly distributed among the people.
It’s not just big game hunters who are upset at the outcry over Cecil’s murder. The New York Times published an editorial from a Zimbabwean stating that Zimbabweans don’t care that Cecil was killed; in fact, they’re glad when a lion is hunted because that’s one less lion to kill a Zimbabwean.
A commentary in the New York Post called us a bunch of hypocrites. Another commentary at the Post sought to shame us for showing such compassion for a lion while showing little for suffering human beings.
Social conservatives were upset over what they saw as more media coverage about Cecil’s death than the latest Planned Parenthood controversy.
And the #BlackLivesMatter movement was upset that people were outraged over the killing of a lion, but not the killing of black people by law enforcement.
Yet, despite all the backlash, animal welfare advocates continued to speak out in numbers large enough to convince American, United, and Delta to stop allowing big game trophies to be shipped via their airlines. UPS, the worldwide shipping giant, boldly claims it will continue to ship big game trophies to the US. There are calls on Twitter to #BoycottUPS. Amazon.com doesn’t allow customers to choose the method of shipment of packages, so there’s also a petition to stop shopping Amazon.com until either they give customers a choice to not use UPS or UPS stops shipping dead animal carcasses.
Other companies are feeling the heat as well. Photos of Jimmy Johns owner Jimmy John Liautaud posing with big animals he killed have been circulating social media, and many are boycotting the gourmet sandwich shops.
And let’s not forget Donald Trump’s sons are big game hunters too.
Meanwhile, Walter Palmer remains in hiding and has hired armed bodyguards to protect him, his family, and his properties after receiving death threats. Palmer’s Marco Island, Florida, vacation home was vandalized by someone who spray painted the words “Lion Killer” on the garage door. Zimbabwe is taking steps to extradite him back to Africa to face charges, but it’s unclear if that will actually happen.
What’s the takeaway from all of this? If we can garner that much backlash, we are a mighty force indeed. So keep that momentum going. Demand a change in consciousness in the people of the world by reminding them of the senseless killing of Cecil and other animals like him.
We are a force to be reckoned with. Let’s show the world just how mighty a force we truly are.