Comment of the Day: Sabrina Corgatelli, Fick


Just as the Cecil the Lion kerfluffle began to disperse (as Republicans try to recruit a dentist to shoot Donald Trump), frequent Ethics Alarms commenter Ing scored a Comment of the Day on my follow-up post about in-your-face giraffe-killer Sabrina Sabatelli, who intentionally mocked the Cecil mourners.

I designated her a fick, someone who publicly revels in their unethical conduct. Ing demurs, and employs the three Niggardly Principles to make his argument. I’ll be back briefly at the end; in the meantime, I’ll add the Niggardly Principle definitions to his commentary so you don’t have to follow the link back and forth.

Here is Ing’s Comment of the Day on the post, Sabrina Corgatelli, Fick:

This woman is not a Fick, or even a Fickatelli. (Great combo, though; I picture someone who thinks he’s the Fonz but is really just a stupid dick.)

What’s really happening here is an “ick” factor and a violation of the Niggardly Principles.

Shooting a giraffe has the ick factor (or is it the awww… factor?) of destroying a harmless, gentle giant of an animal — the African version of Bambi — but it isn’t per se unethical. Her hunt, if it followed the principles of wildlife conservation, was probably beneficial for everyone involved, including giraffes as a whole, and there’s a very high likelihood that it was the quickest and least painful death a giraffe in the wild is likely to get.

Whether this woman’s hunt was ethical or not depends mostly on how it was done, and without any knowledge of the circumstances, we’re in no position to judge.

This whole Evil Trophy Hunters Killing Entire Species of Cuddly Animals For Fun brouhaha is Niggardly Principle all the way.

The First Niggardly Principle:

[“No one should be criticized or penalized because someone takes racial, ethnic, religious or other offense at their conduct or speech due to the ignorance, bias or misunderstanding by the offended party.”]

People who don’t understand why so many other people are driven to hunt, and who have absolutely no idea how today’s African safari and trophy hunting actually works, are assuming that a single highly publicized incident of sketchy behavior is the norm. (How frequently does it happen? I don’t know; I do know that there are sound, sustainable economic and ecological principles behind managed trophy hunting, and I believe that in most of Africa, that’s the norm.) Almost all of the outrage, honest though it may be, stems from ignorance and misunderstanding.

The Second Niggardly Principle:

[“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”]

This woman’s behavior so thoroughly exemplifies why this principle is necessary that calling it the “full Corgatelli” may be in order. She went out of her way to aggravate people who were already upset, and seems to have enjoyed it. Even if those who are upset are wrong or foolish (maybe even more so), the only thing this kind of bitchiness can do is exacerbate the problem and hurt people.

The Third Niggardly Principle:

[“When, however, suppressing speech and conduct based on an individual’s or a group’s sincere claim that such speech or conduct is offensive, however understandable and reasonable this claim may be, creates or threatens to create a powerful precedent that will undermine freedom of speech, expression or political opinion elsewhere, calls to suppress the speech or conduct must be opposed and rejected.”]

Does this rise to the level of endangering “society, culture, individual rights and personal freedoms”? Maybe. The public overreaction to the death of Cecil the Friendly Lion (fueled in part by the unhelpful counter-reactions of people like Corgatelli) is going to harm the very animals people like to think they’re protecting. Carefully managed trophy hunting actually *protects* several endangered species and their habitat; it’s within the realm of possibility that an endangered species or two could go extinct if this anti-hunting mania goes far enough. And a culture where rules are changed and punishments issued based solely on who is angry right now or which hashtag is trending is one that only sociopaths could enjoy. Nobody should go full Corgatelli, but I think a lot of people need a metaphorical slap to the face on this one.

I’m back.

A couple points:

  • How is shooting a living animal that isn’t, say, a rampaging, rabid Kodiak bear, “beneficial for everyone involved”?
  • If shooting a healthy giraffe is “the quickest and least painful death a giraffe in the wild is likely to get,” why not shoot all of them, and all lions, leopards and elephants too?
  • The fact that African animals have all diminished since the advent of big game hunters last century raises the rebuttable presumption that this theory isn’t working.
  • This is essentially a “it’s ethical if you do the right thing for unethical reasons.” It’s consequentialism. Look at that woman’s attitude in the photo, smug expression, and her words, and tell me she shot the giraffe out out of love for the environment.
  • I don’t think the First Niggardly Principle applies to Sabrina Corgatelli at all, and it would only apply to the dentist if Cecil was an old lion who was legally shot, and he wasn’t. For the First Niggardly Principle to apply, Corgatelli would be getting criticized for just shooting the giraffe, not for posing like a mad narcissist with the dead creature’s neck draped around her and sending out mocking social media posts. Not understanding ” why so many other people are driven to hunt” isn’t the issue. Objecting to someone intentionally poking her finger an inch deep into the eyes of strangers is.
  • Agreed: she’s the ultimate Second Niggardly Principle violator.
  • If you were the supporter of the death penalty, would you still have a legitimate objection to a warden posing with a post-execution corpse and a big grin on his face?


16 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: Sabrina Corgatelli, Fick

  1. How is shooting a living animal that isn’t, say, a rampaging, rabid Kodiak bear, “beneficial for everyone involved”?

    In my state feral hogs are pretty much a kill on sight species. There’s no bag limit for hunters, they’re invasive and destructive of both property and the environment. It is assumed that people who kill them intend to eat them or give them to someone who will. Also on occasion, every seven or eight years or so the deer population need to be culled beyond the normal hunting limit of two per season per license otherwise they start to overwhelm resources. They’ll be destructive and then they’ll start to solve.

    I’ll never understand trophy hunting and I doubt I’ll ever be play with it but humans have altered the local environments and in doing so made managing the animal populations our obligation. You’re painting with too broad of a brush Jack.

    • Feral hogs meet the Kodiak bear standard.
      How is shooting a giraffe for a trophy “managing the animal populations.” Sounds like a euphemism for “finding an excuse to kill what we want to” to me.

      • No, it is my usual typo for okay, p being next to o and l being next to k, my right hand was off by half an inch when I was typing. Apologies.

          • Valkygrrl, I appreciate the seriousness of the subject and you are most welcome to jump on my next typos with both feet but I have to say that my favorite comment is about the deer getting together and taking care of planetary issues after tearing up the gardens: “(being) destructive and then they’ll start to solve”.

      • The deer population is a major problem right now. When the deer herd gets too large, there isn’t enough food in the winter and a lot of them starve. When this happens, disease sets in as well. The overpopulation of deer also is a major factor in the Lyme disease increases (over 300,000/ year now). If we had the political will to thin the herd, we could reduce Lyme disease by 80% or more.

        Kilpatrick, Howard J.; Labonte, Andrew M.; Stafford, Kirby C. The Relationship Between Deer Density, Tick Abundance, and Human Cases of Lyme Disease in a Residential Community. Journal of Medical Entomology, July 2014 DOI: 10.1603/ME13232

        We have eliminated the natural predators of most prey species because we don’t want wolves roaming our neighborhoods at night eating children. The flip side of this is that WE now need to replace them and do their job.

          • You’re bring funny but that’s not a point to be overlooked. Thinning out the deer population makes food that people are willing to eat. Downstate a few years back there was a mass thinning on grounds that couldn’t be opened for normal hunting. It ended with quite a bit of venison being donated to food pantries.

  2. Okay, point by point.

    How is it beneficial to all involved? Because it promotes the fertility and survival of the endangered species by removing non-breeding individuals. Because trophy hunts bring in massive amounts of money that make wild animals economically valuable to impoverished people who would otherwise regard them as nuisances. Because it generates money that helps preserve habitat *and* supports local humans. Because it gives the hunters an ethical way to do something they already wanted to do.

    I brought that up because it seems like so many people automatically assume that shooting an animal is cruel. Nature is cruel; hunting isn’t. The goal of hunting isn’t to inflict pain. Ethical hunters take great pride in the times when the animal dropped dead on the spot and didn’t feel a thing. Making a clean, quick kill is difficult, and hunters don’t always succeed (the dentist who shot Cecil sure didn’t), but it’s always the goal.

    This presumption is definitely rebuttable (see point #1). Habitat loss and poaching are the two biggest current threats to most endangered African species, not legal hunting. Big-game hunting a century ago was a wasteful blood sport that kicked the decline into high gear — agreed. But that’s not how it’s done now. Do some research and you’ll find that endangered big-game animals are generally doing much better in places that have a well-managed, conservation-based hunting economy than in those that don’t. It’s not a perfect solution, but it beats leaving the field wide open to poachers.

    Consequentialism…I dunno. I don’t think so. I’ll admit that I haven’t read everything she’s posted on the subject, so maybe I’ve missed something that would have made her motives clear. It’s easy to read that scene negatively in light of her recent behavior. But it’s not unethical to enjoy hunting for its own sake, nor is it unethical to pose in a photo that memorializes a success. She’s doing something unethical now, but that doesn’t mean she was doing something unethical *then*.

    Agreed, the First Niggardly Principle doesn’t apply to the dentist who killed Cecil; that whole hunt was sketchy and he probably knew it, and on top of that, he failed in his duty to make a humane kill. As for Corgatelli the slayer of giraffes, well, I guess that’s debatable. Probably nobody would be criticizing her if she hadn’t jumped in and acted like an ass. But then again, there’s a lot of jumping to conclusions going on. You say she’s “posing like a mad narcissist.” I say she was simply proud of her success. Given her current assholery it’s debatable, but I still say the First Niggardly Principle applies to Corgatelli. She’s not being attacked by the public for mocking people, she’s being attacked for killing the giraffe — which was not per se an unethical act.

    Corgatelli’s Facebook mockery was unethical and she is apparently proud of it, so on second thought, I guess that could qualify her as a Fick. Or a Fickatelli: someone who is not only unethical, but also an asshole and proud of it.

    That would be creepy. Very creepy. But not equivalent. A giraffe is an animal, not a person. Animals can’t commit crimes, and killing an animal isn’t morally or ethically equivalent to killing a person. (And for the record, even though I’ve been defending it and can mostly understand it, I’m not really a fan of the take-a-picture-with-your-dead-animal thing.)

  3. If only Corgatelli had ditched the rest and stuck with this: “My money, my time and my efforts go to Lion hunting/conservation, for that I am proud!”

  4. “African animals have all diminished since the advent of big game hunters last century” No cavil with the rest of the arguments, but this one has only a slight correlation. The main causes are the encroachment on the animals’ territory by non-hunting-for-sport human beings for both domestic and commercial reasons, the cutting INTO the habitats causing destruction of normal migratory routes and breeding patterns, and the imbalance of natural predators that ensued. The Big Five will not outlast this century … maybe not the next couple of decades.

    • Of course, what’s the limitation?

      In Europe as Europeans fought hard to get out of tribalism & misery, their encroachment and taming of land, many “exotic” species used to roam Europe…even Lions. Now, Europe and Western Civilization being materially comfortable and extremely advanced now feel bad that it’s happening in Africa and so we have to hamper Africa’s attempts to get out of tribalism and misery?

      There certainly does have to be a balance though, just because Europeans and other civlizations inevitably push wilder less-than-conducive-to-cities animals out, doesn’t mean it is ok, ethically speaking; yet the Africans can’t be hampered and condemned to a miserable system they currently have.

    • One could argue that their is only the slightest of degree of difference between “trophy hunting” for sport, and poaching for non-sport “commercial reasons”.

      Trophy hunters are merely a more direct client: they personally want to shoot and collect a dead thing. Poachers, however, shoot and deliver parts of dead animals on behalf collectors and quack medicine men.

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