Cecil was a beloved lion in Zimbabwe that was killed by dentist Walter Palmer while he was hunting for sport (why his occupation matters, I have no idea but it seems that everyone is referring to him as such so when in Rome…). Cecil’s death has created a huge uproar (pun intended) throughout the world and the web. Petitions are being signed, Palmer’s house has been vandalized with graffiti, he’s had to close down his practice for the time being and even celebrities are getting in on it. On his show, Jimmy Kimmel had to hold back tears over Cecil’s death. But it isn’t just him that feels this way, this sentiment seems to be shared amongst most people.
There are a lot of implications that Cecil’s death holds, ranging from animal welfare, how game hunting from Westerners ties to colonialism, how although so many people are so outraged about this many of them cannot even locate Zimbabwe on a map, how Teddy Roosevelt and his son killed 17 lions and 494 other animals on one hunting trip alone, and so much more. What really gets me, however, is how people are more outraged over the death of one lion than that of other humans. People are more willing to bestow compassion on an animal than a fellow human being.
It’s not just the mourning and outrage of Cecil; I’ve seen people treat their pets better than they treat their friends. Why? Maybe it’s not that we value animal life more, maybe it’s that we just value one another less. Or maybe it’s because we don’t really see one another as people rather as objects, obstacles in one another’s ways, stepping stones to better jobs and a better life. We look at one another and instead of seeing a human and someone that should treated as such we see labels. Whether it’s black, white, basic, stupid, rich, poor, slut or prude, we make judgments and treat others like what we think they are as opposed to who they actually are, which is a person first and the everything else second. When we put that label on them, we take away part of their humanity and as they become an object, we treat them as such. As we do this over and over again, we devalue one another to the point that our lives don’t mean as much anymore.
On the other hand, I’d like to give the society the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe the thought of other humans suffering is just too much for us to handle. I hope that the burden of thinking about all the poor that are starving in Zimbabwe is too much to bear so instead we cling on to things like Cecil because we can shoulder that instead. So we yell and petition and we are ready to crucify the man who killed him because justice for Cecil is something that we can handle. But then I look at stories of #BlackLivesMatter, of people like Sandra Bland or Samuel Dubose. I think about the Planned Parenthood story of brokering fetal body parts and it’s sad because, hard though it may be too real to think about the injustice of these situations, it’s our responsibility to do so. We should be petitioning, outraged, tweeting, holding back tears for their justice, for their deaths. But we’re not.
I don’t really know how to rationalize it, but all I can say is that we have so far to go if we are more angered over the death of lion than the death of our own.