By Michael Sainato, contributor
The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act was introduced by New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) on July 31. “Let’s not be cowardly lions when it comes to trophy killings,” said Menendez in a press release. “Cecil’s [a popular lion in Zimbabwe] death was a preventable tragedy that highlights the need to extend the protections of the Endangered Species Act.” The bill would discourage trophy hunting abroad by making it illegal to import parts of any species listed as threatened or endangered, but more steps through policy, advocacy and funding need to be made to ensure trophy hunting is eradicated and animals are protected.
The killing of Cecil the lion has inspired a remarkable amount of backlash against the hunter, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, who paid $55,000 to hunt the lion. But the inexcusable murder of Cecil the lion is not an anomaly; it is a manifestation of a trophy-hunting culture that cultivates this violence towards wildlife.
“I wonder about the psychology of the people that like seeing an animal in fear or tortured or just its life snuffed out for no good reason,” said comedian Ricky Gervais on the “Opie with Jim Norton” radio show on July 30. “The point of society is to get more and more civilized. The whole point is to decrease suffering in a good society. If people think we are really in charge of this planet, we’re not taking care of it very well. Why do we pander to these psychopathic urges?” He adds, “these privileged millionaires think they have the right to pay poor countries to murder an animal, and I don’t know why that’s seen as a good thing.”
There is a sickening degree of pleasure and gratification associated with killing majestic species already facing threats such as poaching and habitat destruction. Palmer was a member of Safari Club International, a nonprofit “hunters’ rights” organization. The club’s website lists 43 kills of Palmer’s, among them a federally endangered polar bear. Palmer and other hunters often photograph themselves hovering over the dead carcasses of their victims, grinning proudly. The hunters clearly enjoy killing these animals and the graphic images they take of themselves with their kills exhibit their attitudes of disrespect toward nature and wildlife. Killing anything should not be fun. In the earlier referenced radio show, Gervais refutes the argument that the funds from these hunting safaris benefit conservation, stating, that “they’re exploiting a poor country that needs the money and the animals. We wouldn’t let a billionaire kill a cancer patient for giving money to cancer research.”
The animals are hunted to augment the egos of the people who commit these acts. These hunters will excuse their delusions with self-serving justifications, impervious to the cruelty in their actions, and then will often take a piece of the animal they killed to proudly display as a souvenir. Walter Palmer excused his actions by blaming his local guides, and not the complete disregard for a species that has decreased in numbers by more than half in the past three decades. Trophy hunting in general glorifies killing as entertainment. The practice is offensive and perpetuates a negative culture of how humans relate to animals and how little value hunters place on the lives of the wildlife they brutally victimize.
*Sainato is a freelance writer