Is shooting a big, beautiful male lion who was minding his own business ethical?
The two lovebirds are Canadians Darren and Carolyn Carter, who like killing big, beautiful wild animals. They also are in the taxidermy business, so they create the “art” of preserved beautiful dead animals for those who also either enjoy killing them or who like having the stuffed dead creatures, or just their heads, as trophies or decoration.
It is fair to say that at this time in human culture in North America, simply killing big game for the thrill of it is considered cruel and wrong. The fact that the Carters are taxidermists gives them a little more ballast in a utilitarian argument. In general, killing anything just to kill it is unethical: it ends a life, and life has positive value. Killing an animal to eat it helps balance out the ethical considerations, as we regard human life as having higher value than animal or plant life. Killing a lion to save a human life—as in the situation where a lion is deliberately stalking and killing people, like the two “Tsavo Man-Eaters” responsible for the deaths of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway between March and December 1898 (dramatized in the film, “The Ghost and the Darkness”) would also be ethical.(Those lions are stuffed and on display in the Marshall Fields Museum in Chicago.)
If one doesn’t deny the value of taxidermy as art, furnishings or as museum exhibits for historical or educational purposes, then maybe the practice has sufficient value to human life to sustain the argument that killing even a harmless lion to stuff it is ethically defensible. Personally and professionally, I find that to be a weak and rationalization-stuffed argument, but let’s give the Carters the benefit of the doubt for now.
The killing was legal. It was, however, the result also a so-called “canned hunt” in South Africa, where a company called Legelela Safaris arranges opportunities to shoot magnificent wild animals for a fee. If it’s sport, it’s barely sport, and, of course, there are many, many sports that do not require killing anything. If one can do something without causing harm (like killing a living creature), it is unethical to deliberately do it while causing harm. Yes, the circumstances surrounding the kill are ethically dubious at best.
What about that kiss?
Ick. How romantic: we just made a beautiful live thing dead, oooooooh, kiss me, baby, killing creatures make me hot! Yechh. The kiss, however, doesn’t hurt anyone; it just shows that the individuals kissing have ethics alarms just slightly more functional than the typical psychopath. (Norman Bates, you will recall, enjoyed taxidermy.) One could argue that the smooch shows gratuitous disrespect for the lion, but realistically, the lion doesn’t care. The ultimate disrespect was shooting him, not being turned on by it.
And the photo?
The photo is hurtful. I’m not going to show it to my wife, because it will make her cry, and I got a little choked up myself when I first saw it. A good argument can be made that posting such a photo online is ethically indefensible because it causes psychic distress to others who see it , and unless they live in a cave, the Carters know this. If they want a photographic record of their thrill-kill, swell; let them take their ugly photos and store them in an album. on a wall in their home or taxidermy office, or on their own computers and cell phones. Posting such photos online (in this case, the hunting company posted it, but presumably with the Carters’ consent), are harmful without any sufficient counter-balancing human benefit.
What do you think? Is the photo and what it portrays ethical or not? Poll time:
Now just to get the bad taste of all this out of my metaphorical mouth…
Pointer: Jonathan Turley