Ethics Dunce: Cecil The Lion Killer Walter Palmer…Or Any Big Game Hunter, Really

Walter James Palmer, a  Minnesota dentist,shot and killed the famous Cecil the lion with a bow and arrow. The death of the 13-year-old animal has caused an international uproar among conservationists because Cecil was well-known to visitors at the Zimbabwe nature reserve and enjoyed human contact. The lion was lured out of the national park and shot.

In a statement, Palmer said that the authorities had yet to contact him and added that he did not know the lion he had killed was a “local favorite.” “To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted,” he said. “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”

Oh, so what? Why is it worse to kill a “local favorite” than to kill any wild animal just for—yechhh–the fun of it? Killing for sport is ethically indefensible, and killing these large, beautiful, and even endangered creatures is ugly, cruel and irresponsible.

After Cecil, the photos show Palmer with some of his other “trophies.” He must be so proud…

cecil-the-lion

hunt1

hunt3

hunt4

hunt2

The man, to be clear, is an asshole.

I don’t want to think about it any more.

________________

Facts and Graphics: Telegraph

87 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Cecil The Lion Killer Walter Palmer…Or Any Big Game Hunter, Really

  1. I wonder, does he at least eat these animals, or donate the meat to local charities? I personally have no interest in sport hunting exotic game. Thrill-killing, or having an animal’s head on my wall holds no allure for me. I don’t get people who think this makes some sort of a statement about them. Now, if you run into the jungle and attack a lion or rhino with a knife, or fight the alpha males in a troop of baboons and become their new leader,now that’s saying something! I’ll definitely buy you a beer. In fact, fighting baboons is something I may have to do one day. My wife says I’m a baboon, and if I should happen to bump into some, it may happen whether I want it to or not.

    It’s been a while, but I do miss going on the occasional deer or hog hunt. Having a freezer full of game meat is nice if you properly dress the meat, and both deer and hog tags are issued in order to thin the herd. That’s a useful a conservation tool that helps protect the species and keeps the local ecology in balance. That’s perfectly okay with me. If this bothers someone, but that person eats store-bought meat, I would suggest they re-think the issue. But a majestic animal with a rifle from a safe distance, just for the head? No, that’s wrong.

    • Walter thinks because he uses a bow and arrow, that makes him less of an asshole. I don’t care if he wrestles them and kills them with his bare hands, or with one hand behind his back.

      • If I could kill a healthy bear or lion with nothing but my bare hands, I’d wear its bloody, rotting carcass everywhere I went. Of course, this is all academic; what bear or lion is going to start a fight with me?

        • Well of course, victors are allowed to display trophies of their victory, if it was an unprovoked fight…

          This is why Aggies (though their color be Maroon) should wear Burnt Orange as a trophy symbolic of wearing the skin of a rotten University of Texas grad)

          • And, you know, I was just thinking about flying a torn and battered Maroon pendant from the back of my burnt-orange pick-up, with the longhorns on the doors.

        • I knew a guy who bow hunted mountain lion. He needed 2 knee replacements at the time and he would walk out into the woods alone at night to hunt mountain lion with only a bow. I thought that 2 bad knees, alone, at night, with a bow was giving the mountain lions a very sporting chance.

    • “I wonder, does he at least eat these animals, or donate the meat to local charities?”

      I don’t think that alleviates it at all. His $50,000 safari + whatever additional $’s spent could easily have purchased a ton of cultivated meat from any source of animals that there is an ABUNDANCE of…like cows.

      “I personally have no interest in sport hunting exotic game. Thrill-killing, or having an animal’s head on my wall holds no allure for me. I don’t get people who think this makes some sort of a statement about them.”

      I think it’s some odd attachment to the romantic notions of Ernest Hemingway and that ilk…but wasn’t he kind of an asshole also?

      “Now, if you run into the jungle and attack a lion or rhino with a knife, or fight the alpha males in a troop of baboons and become their new leader,now that’s saying something!”

      It says you like to start fights without the necessity to fight.

      “It’s been a while, but I do miss going on the occasional deer or hog hunt. Having a freezer full of game meat is nice if you properly dress the meat, and both deer and hog tags are issued in order to thin the herd. That’s a useful a conservation tool that helps protect the species and keeps the local ecology in balance. That’s perfectly okay with me.”

      I think a different ethical evaluation comes into play with smaller game, but still one in which “does the killing have a purpose that cannot be replaced by other sources”? With hogs, it can be an easy answer. Feral hogs in central Texas are a pestilence and it is pretty much open season on them year round with practically no limit.

      Deer I think is a different story, but certainly not as high on the ethical evaluation as exotic game (and in fact much closer to the feral hogs).

      “If this bothers someone, but that person eats store-bought meat, I would suggest they re-think the issue.”

      I’m not sure. I’ve heard arguments that you can derive from plants all the nutrient needs we get from animals, so just eat plants. But I haven’t met a vegetarian yet that isn’t sickly, frail, or generally weak. So, I’m not convinced, in which case there IS a useful purpose to eating meat.

      That gate being opened, there can then be arguments as to which animals we select for meat sources.

      “But a majestic animal with a rifle from a safe distance, just for the head? No, that’s wrong.”

      Especially since it isn’t even hunting. In my view “hunting” includes “the stalk”. In which you must track (which takes skill like finding, reading sign, stealthiness), remain undiscovered by your prey, be resourceful, be situationally aware, have excellent navigation skills and planning. That’s where the real skill in hunting lies, and has nothing to do with killing an animal…the skill necessary with killing an animal is generally two-fold – 1) marksmanship (a skill that can be demonstrated by shooting a paper target) and 2) calmness and steadiness when the adrenaline of killing kicks in (but is that a skill you want to brag about or display?).

      But these “hunters”? On these planned and highly coordinated hunts? Not hunting. It’s just ambushing. Anyone can ambush. Toss out free food and any animal will come to it. No skills that can’t be demonstrated in other non-killing venues.

          • Wow. Last of his kind, eh? I don’t know… That might fall under ethics incompleteness. Is extinction an ethical option to keep one person alive for one day? I agree with the original premise, but as the situation gets closer to extinction, perhaps the situation changes.

            • Yeah I’d put it in a gray area also, and I’ll temper that last of its kind comment by saying maybe not and should have worded it in a better manner that indicates how much more valuable I consider human lives over animal.

              But of course, I’d have to see arguments against particular extinctions that aren’t just ick factor. Because as nice sounding as “biodiversity is a good thing” is, I haven’t seen Nature support the notion given that there have been what, 5 or 6 mass extinctions in history and somehow life still manages to be diverse…

      • “Now, if you run into the jungle and attack a lion or rhino with a knife, or fight the alpha males in a troop of baboons and become their new leader,now that’s saying something!”

        It says you like to start fights without the necessity to fight.
        I think it says you’re in touch with your caveman origins. And have big balls. And are probably more than a little nuts, I guess.

        • I can be sympathetic to calls for men to behave like men and I definitely believe men ought to behave like men when the time comes. But part of being a man is knowing when to use force, when not to, when to start fights, when not to.

          Do you think a well-fed cavemen found the nearest mammoth and took it on? Nope.

      • I’m not sure. I’ve heard arguments that you can derive from plants all the nutrient needs we get from animals, so just eat plants. But I haven’t met a vegetarian yet that isn’t sickly, frail, or generally weak. So, I’m not convinced, in which case there IS a useful purpose to eating meat.

        That gate being opened, there can then be arguments as to which animals we select for meat sources.

        I’m thinking more along the lines of how animals are treated in food processing plants.

      • “But I haven’t met a vegetarian yet that isn’t sickly, frail, or generally weak.”
        It’s not like you, Tex, to make a crass generalization like that. Of course “I haven’t met” gives you an out, but still its a myth. If you think people with low body fat percentages (one result of a non-meat-eating diet) are sickly, frail and weak I won’t argue using “the one’s I’VE met.” There’s plenty of evidence out there.

        After all, if bulk and bulging muscles are your criteria for health and strength, why yes, on the whole, vegetarians are not often found on the gridiron, say, men like Ricky Williams or Herschel Walker or Tony Gonzalez, though big helpings of greens ‘n such are now a standard on the athletes’ plates. Then there are the vegans: http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/05/25/10-brawny-and-buff-vegan-men-plus-a-bonus/ Okay, while it’s true that the average herbivorous fruitarians (make what you like of that word) of 5 years or more are not performance-enhanced by diet alone, and they have the same cancer rates as meatmunchers, they do tend to have lower blood pressure, fewer bone fractures and cataracts, as well as a not insignificant 20% to 34% lower rate of heart disease. The pasta-and-bean brigade are freer of colorectal complaints, which makes life sooo much nicer for everyone, especially if there’s only one bathroom; and the nut ninnies are prone to fewer mental health problems.

        Are they weaker? Depends. If a 250 lb gal falls on a 250 lb guy, no harm done (unless she gets pregnant); but if the fallee is a mere 125 lbs, he’s liable to get a bit rumpled. But when he gets up (and he will: veggiepeople are resilient), he will be able to run away much faster. He will live to run another day . . . many other days, in fact.

        Okay, maybe it’s not all diet. One thing leads to another, so veggie-volk tend also to exercise more, live in stable relationships, and smoke and drink less alcohol than the average bear. And that leads to a longer life-span (up to 9 years!) than, say, mine. Unless they get snotty in the presence of an armed dentist from Minnesota.

        Bonus Section: Contrary to declarations in the past that children should not be raised vegetarian or vegan, it has been shown over the decades that not only is it done with no ill effects, if more complicated than Gerbers and MacDonalds, (less so every year as more options become available), but that the healthiest diet of all for kids of all ages is a sensible compromise: one which has a veggie core and includes fish (pesco-vegetarian), dairy products, and eggs, yet excludes meat.

        Then there are school lunch menus . . . .

        • You can smoke alcohol? Neat! I married a vegetarian, and let me tell you, she is smokin’, even at 45. I, too, finally saw the error of my carnivorous ways. My diet is now primarily leafy greens, nuts, beans, some whole grains, and only occasionally meat, and I’ve never felt better. It’s the way we’re s’posta eat. In fact, most of what I eat goes into a masticating juicer.

        • Sorry if I tweaked a nerve with you. But like I said the reports don’t convince me. I can counter the claims also by saying I’m healthy as ever and I eat meat often.

          You’ll probably want to fix your false dichotomy where you presume that to me the only alternative to “sickly, frail, and weak” is big bulging muscles likened into football players.

  2. Just to head a favorite Leftwing strawman off at this pass…this has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment, because the 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting.

  3. ” Killing for sport is ethically indefensible”. What, always …..? What a bold assertion. What are the ethical principles that support this position?

    You may not like hunting. I don’t, but plenty do. I also like people to have the maximum freedom to live their lives as they want.

    Shooting Cecil with a crossbow causing him to suffer for 40 hours was wrong because It was cruel and self indulgent. If you are going to kill animals for food, sport or whatever, I suggest there is a moral duty to minimise suffering.

    Killing Cecil as a trophy was ugly behaviour, certainly. I don’t think I’d want this guy as my friend or dentist. Condemn him for the cruelty. But to my mind you are way over the top in tagging all ‘killing for sport’ as “ethically indefensible”.

    • Dentists are cruel by nature. It’s what attracts them to the field. It starts with teasing of siblings, then relentless tickling, then pulling the wings off flies, then torturing small animals, then dentistry; the post-grad of sadism.

    • Why? Killing for sport is killing for fun. People who kill for fun are called psychopaths. They value a rush they get from killing a living thing, ending a life at their whim…for enjoyment. How is that ethically redeemable? I’m sure there’s an exception or two, but in general its a sage ethics absolute. Don’t kill anything for your amusement: it’s wrong. Period. Exclamation point.

      • I thought you were a huge fan of Teddy Roosevelt? Probably the biggest sports hunter we’ve ever had in office (and possibly out of office). I’m not sure I would call him a psychopath — although he certainly suffered from other mental issues.

        • Teddy was from a different culture and a different generation. The number of animals Teddy killed was obscene. Ironically, he did more to introduce environmentalism into the national consciousness that any U.S.leader. I also admire much about Andrew Jackson, but I don’t support dueling, and I’m not a fan of racism.

          • Teddy was from a different time, but I don’t believe big game exotic animal hunting was common — even among the elite.

            • That’s an “everybody doesn’t do it” argument. Teddy was not one to follow the crowd: going off and being a cowboy was also not the usual path for a rich kid. He believed in the credo of the Manly Man, showing his dominance over all that confronted him. He was also not much of a feminist. People who throw off lots of ideas typically have a lot of bad ones too—that was Teddy.

              • Wait — then how is your “different time” argument relevant? Usually, people use that phrase to discuss a past cultural norm. So, you’re saying it was a different time but conceding that it wasn’t a cultural norm. Odd — and you’re making my head hurt a little.

                I think he was a manic sociopath (not necessarily a bad combo of traits for a president).

                • Different time, in that there was no sense of the creatures being engangered or African being spoiled. Different time, in that the US was paternalistic and imperialistic in ways we reject now. Different time in that hunting generally was generally accepted, more common and popular. Teddy’s mega hunting was never a cultural norm, since very few had the money, time, energy or stomach for it. In the TR collection at Harvard, there’s an album including pictures of Teddy with most of the big game he shot over his life. THOUSANDS of animal.

                  Manic, yes. Narcissist certainly. Sociopath, never. The man loved with the same passion he did everything else with. Sociopaths are not good fathers, sons or husbands, and Teddy was. Sociopaths aren’t usually willing to sacrifice their lives for others.

                  • Thank you for your clarification. Head hurts less now.

                    Did you watch PBS’s recent documentary on the Roosevelts? It drew some different conclusions re his parenting — especially in connection with his youngest daughter.

                  • But he (TR) was still a ‘psychopath’ on your presumably timeless definitions, because he ‘killed for fun’. When the dentist did it this was ‘ethically indefensible’ showing he was an ‘asshole’, but when TR did similarly it was at least partially ‘defensible’ because of ‘different times’?

                    We can all have different frameworks for our ethics, and I admire your efforts to encourage thinking as to what they should be. I am uncomfortable with time dependent ethics. I don’t think we can rely on such ethics always improving over time. In my book TR was ‘wrong’ on a timeless measure if he hunted cruelly and took pleasure from the suffering. I don’t think he did. The dentist inflicted 40 hours of suffering which was ‘wrong’, period, exclamation mark etc. and merits everlasting ‘asshole’ classification.

  4. I don’t know all the details of this particular hunt and how Mr. Dentist wound up killing Cecil the Lion specifically, but consider this.

    That guy, and a lot of other people (somewhat) like him, paid a lot of money to go there and hunt. The rhino he’s pictured with, for instance, was most likely an old, non-breeding male on a managed wilderness preserve. Taking the old rhino out gives fertile males room to procreate and increase the numbers of a critically endangered species.

    So there’s one good thing about the hunt, even if killing something just for its head has the ick factor.

    And yes, on all legal safari hunts, any edible meat is given to the locals, who definitely need the food. So that could be a mitigating factor.

    Now back to the money. Rhinos and elephants are prime targets for poachers, who sell horns and tusks and whatnot on the black market. There aren’t enough game wardens in all the world to watch all the big animals all the time, and poaching could spell the end of the entire species.

    But dentists and all sorts of relatively wealthy people will pay big money for the chance to hunt the occasional enormous, geriatric rhino whose existence isn’t essential to the survival of the species. And that money flows into the local economy, providing impoverished people with food and necessities they would otherwise lack.

    The hunting economy ties rhinos (and elephants, though I dunno about lions) directly to the well-being of a lot of people — and now everybody’s a de facto game warden, and poaching is practically eliminated. And some of the hunting money goes directly to conservation, too.

    TL;DR summary: Though it seems barbaric and pointless, trophy hunting actually does more to protect a lot of these big-game species than drawing imaginary lines around nature preserves and saying “thou shalt not.”

    Does that change the ethics of killing Cecil specifically? Maybe not. Again, I don’t know how this particular hunt was conducted or why they chose to kill this particular lion.

    But I think it’s a pretty good argument in favor of African trophy hunting in general, and it’s one that you generally don’t hear when these uproars hit the news.

  5. Do you feel eating meat is ethically indefensible as well? Both actions involve the killing of animals. Why is killing animals for the purpose of eating them (when we humans can survive off eating just plants, so it’s not like our survival is dependent on our consumption of meat) and less unethical than killing animals for sport?

    • I assume you can answer that question. One is killing for sustenance, the other is killing for fun. Human beings are carnivores, and there is nothing inherently unethical about nourishing yourself according to how your body is programmed. Plants are alive too…killing a tree for fun is also unethical. Life involves interfering with nature and there are zero-sum games involved. Yes, I think a very strong argument can be made that avoiding meat is more ethical than not. But hunting for sport is a separate issue, and that’s what the post was about.

  6. Learned from my grandfather…”If you aren’t going to eat it, don’t shoot it.” Everything he shot is, of course, edible. Whether anybody actually wants to eat one of the big cats is open to conjecture, but I would pass. An elk, caribou or deer, certainly; I might even try a rhino steak, if there was somebody around who could cook it. Jack is dead right on this one, killing for fun is unethical. To expand a little, it is also immoral, a little frightening and pathological.

        • Maybe large men who kill game are deriving satisfaction that prevents them from killing other humans, too. Back to the 2nd Amendment…

        • Human. It’s human.

          Good, bad, or indifferent, the drive to hunt, acquire, compete, and even to kill things is baked into human nature. It’s not pathological unless it overcomes reason and empathy. As with any other part of human nature, there are ethical and unethical ways to express it.

          • You may have hit on a new rationalization for the list there. Thanks.

            Many base instincts are human. Promiscuity, for example. Revenge. The idea of civilization is to repress and control them.

              • When I wrote that comment, I was thinking of the classic logical fallacy of the appeal to nature — the claim that something is necessary, justified, good, inevitable, or excusable just because it’s “natural.”

                “The heart wants what the heart wants” is a pretty close analog.

                Now I feel like I need to clarify a bit.

                I wanted to make two points with that comment: First, that the drive to do this sort of thing actually *is* natural and quite normal. It’s never going to go away (in humans as a group; individuals differ), so it’s inevitable that people will want to do things like trophy hunting, and probably inevitable that some will go to great lengths to do it (or something like it).

                Second was the point that we can CHOOSE what to do with those potentially destructive drives. The drive to hunt and kill animals isn’t evil and it’s not a disease. It’s not necessarily good, either. It just exists. We create good or evil according to what we choose to *do*. Which is where ethics and morals come in.

                • I don’t think you were rationalizing and your explanation definitely shows what I thought you were doing. I don’t lnownif Jack thought you were or not. But you did inspire him to develop another rationalization.

  7. Walter Palmer DDS is a licensed dentist and has access to anethesia, the ability to admin anethesia. This is a huge concern..dude is nutty.

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