Raising Voices For Cecil The Lion
Cecil the lion's slaughter at the hands of trophy hunters in Zimbabwe has lit up the Internet and social media with protest and outrage in recent days.
Earlier this month, an American dentist from Minnesota named Walter Palmer paid hunting fees to organizers in Zimbabwe; either these local men, or the men and Palmer together, lured Cecil out of Hwange National Park. Palmer then shot the magnificent animal with a bow and arrow and finally, hours later, killed him with a rifle. Cecil was then beheaded and skinned.
The men who organized the hunt have been arrested and a petition has been circulated to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe to face charges.
In addition to the outcry on behalf of Cecil on social media, there's a competing chorus that I have noticed, primarily in my Twitter feed. It takes the form of a question worded along these lines: "You raise your voice for this lion, but where was your voice for __________?" (Insert in the blank the name of a well-known human being who has suffered or the name of a social justice cause related to human suffering.)
The implication of this question is clear: Our energies are better spent on "people causes" and not "animal causes."
In reply, I offer three points:
None of us should hesitate to raise our voices for animals and, more importantly, move beyond social-media outrage to take actions that make lives better for animals.
As I said in 2013 to NPR's Petra Mayer, each one of us can do something of significance. Maybe you're all about educating children in wildlife conservation, or working to get cats and dogs spay-neutered. Or maybe you decide not to eat so many animals anymore. Whatever works for you, it all makes a difference.
Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, often writes about human evolution, primate behavior and the cognition and emotion of animals. Barbara's most recent book on animals is titled How Animals Grieve. You can keep up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.