Where do we draw the line when it comes to valuing living beings? If what is being widely reported is true, that a Minnesota dentist methodically and premeditatedly lured a protected and deeply loved lion off of a Zimbabwean game reserve with the sole reason to kill, skin, and behead this majestic animal, how can anyone justify this as acceptable behavior?
The alleged lion killer is defending his actions by stating that he never knew this was a specifically favored and protected animal, and that what he calls his hobby ("hunting for sport") is a legal choice and one that he's been engaging in for many years (turns out this same dentist was fined $3,000 in 2003 for shooting a black bear in Wisconsin, so this was not his first run-in with the law relating to this so-called legal hobby).
He claims that he never brings up this hunting hobby with his dental patients because it's a "divisive issue"...and sure enough, since the news broke of his involvement in Cecil the Lion's killing, his dental practice has fallen apart (his Yelp account has virtually exploded with negative comments and he is currently rated with a single star, the lowest possible Yelp rating).
But his defense brings up a very important question: are we up in arms because this dentist allegedly killed a protected animal or are we fired up simply because a living being was killed for "sport?" Does it ultimately matter whether this particular lion was a known Zimbabwean favorite? Would it be a lesser crime if Cecil the Lion wasn't a nationally known animal? My feeling is absolutely not.
Of course when an animal is a specifically protected being, there is usually a reason for this protection-- perhaps it's an endangered species or an animal that was born under adverse circumstances, making it vulnerable health-wise or otherwise. But premeditated killing is killing, regardless of the "status" of the animal. What's truly tragic with this story is the blatant disregard for a living being.
If what is being reported is true, that this man initially shot Cecil with a bow and arrow, which wounded the animal but didn't kill him, and then the dentist and his cohorts allegedly spent the next 40 hours tracking the suffering animal throughout the nature reserve, drawing him to them by strapping a dead animal to their truck, then shooting him, skinning him, and beheading him, this is watching an animal suffer and die for personal pleasure-- there's no other explanation.
It is hard to understand how this is regarded as "sport hunting;" frankly, it simply smacks of ritualistic killing. Although hunting enthusiasts may argue that hunting for sport is just like any other sport, one that requires training, skill, finesse, and dedication, when the end result is the killing of a living being, how can this be acceptable? Every being on this Earth has value-- the loss of Cecil the Lion is devastating, but not just because he was a darling of the African people-- because he was a living, breathing being who never deserved his fate, of prolonged suffering and ultimately, a tragic and needless death. Hunting for sport is animal cruelty, no matter how you look at it.