Among the Cecil the lion protesters

I spent about an hour this past Wednesday afternoon among the folks protesting outside of Dr. Walter Palmer’s dental office in Bloomington. Palmer, of course, is the man who killed a lion in Zimbabwe in early July and since has become the object of so much scorn.

Much has been written about the details of Palmer’s hunt, and the ensuing legal fallout, so I won’t go into that here.

Social media have been ablaze about Palmer and Cecil the lion, and the amount of hate and vitriol directed at Palmer has been stunning. But I suppose it’s to be expected, given we can use Twitter or Facebook to share our immediate, unfiltered thoughts. But what surprised me about Wednesday’s protest is how hundreds of people will show up in public – presumably after they’ve had a chance to process their thoughts – and say the things they did.

As I stood among the protesters, I heard people calling Palmer a terrorist and murderer, and wishing for the death of him and his family. They were open in their desire to see his career and life ruined.

I wonder how we got to the point that we care more about the life of an animal than the life of a human being.

A couple of thoughts:

• I believe these protesters are on the fringe, and don’t represent the majority of people. At the same time, it was concerning to hear them talk and chant about hunting in general – as if there’s any similarity between lion hunting in Africa and deer hunting in Minnesota. One teenage girl held a sign that said, simply, “Hunting is a coward’s pastime.”

She and others don’t understand the integral role hunting plays in conservation in Minnesota, the United States, and beyond. Hunters are the original conservationists, and the money they spend is used for a variety of purposes, including to manage wildlife and protect land. 

• Some people have a naive view of wild animals. This lion didn’t live in a petting zoo. It was a predator in the same way a bear or a wolf is a predator. But because it had a name, people equate it with the cute and cuddly stuffed animals left outside Palmer’s office. 

• Animal rights folks like to pick and choose their causes, depending on how it serves their purpose. I didn’t hear anything from them when two bull elk were poached in northwestern Minnesota earlier this year. Is it because the elk didn’t have names? 

And where were these folks when hunters were leading the charge to pass an amendment to the Minnesota constitution that raises $100 million per year for habitat? 

It’s easy to hold up signs and paint all hunters as villains. But signs and protests don’t put habitat on the ground or pay for wildlife management or clean water.

 

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