The reverberations from the early July slaying of Cecil the lion continue to be felt worldwide, with the news that authorities in Zimbabwe have charged the second of two men who guided Safari Club International member Walter Palmer’s illicit trophy kill just outside the borders of Hwange National Park. “Cecil was delivered to him like a pizza,” said the Hwange Lion Research Project’s Brent Stapelkamp, who took the last photo of Cecil alive, just a month before Palmer killed, skinned, and beheaded the lion with the assistance of hunting guide Theo Bronkhurst and game park owner Honest Ndlovu. We are still awaiting word on Zimbabwe’s request to extradite Walter Palmer, who was at the center of this scheme to kill Hwange National Park’s most famous lion, and if that happens, there will be some measure of justice for all three horsemen of the Hwange apocalypse.
We’re also urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize its proposed rule listing the African lion under the Endangered Species Act, as have dozens of members of Congress. We are hoping for final action from the agency soon, so that further imports of lion trophies will be restricted or banned from African nations.
Either way, the killers will have a hard time getting those trophies back home. Since the Cecil slaying, 38 airlines have committed to halting the shipping of the Africa Big Five. Delta, United, and American Airlines — the big U.S.-based carriers with service to Africa — are among the airlines to ban shipping lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo trophies. UPS this week announced a good, sound policy of not shipping shark fins, but we are still awaiting a declaration from that company on its policy concerning the hunting trophies, since four species of the Africa Big Five are listed, or about to be listed, as threatened with extinction under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has introduced a bill to ban all imports of trophies and parts from African lions and other at-risk species into the United States. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-TX, have announced their intention to sponsor a bill to amend the Endangered Species Act to ban “all acts of senseless and perilous trophy killings.” Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey have introduced bills to restrict imports into their states.
Right now, there are 41 trophy hunters who, just like Walter Palmer, paid a fortune to kill an animal about to get listed under the Endangered Species Act, and want a waiver from Congress to display the heads and hides of the slain animals in their homes. In the case of the 41, they killed polar bears in northern Canada. We’re fighting their import-waiver effort not just as a symbolic act to deny these trophy hunters their ill-gotten gains, but to prevent the bum rush of trophy hunters into a foreign land whenever our federal government announces that it’s going to upgrade federal protections for a declining species and restrict imports.
Finally, there is the battle we’re waging in the marketplace of ideas. We’ve answered the self-serving reasoning of the trophy-hunting clan about the value of their activity to conservation, and more than ever, people see through their pay-to-slay reasoning. People realize that trophy killing undermines wildlife conservation, is no boon to national or regional economies anywhere, and should not be countenanced or encouraged by anyone. How can anyone possibly think it’s helpful to animals to kill a dominant lion in a pride with an arrow, or to slay a large-tusked elephant, or a mature rhino with a beautiful horn? For them, I guess, it diminishes the utter selfishness of the activity by concocting some far-fetched scenario where killing a creature somehow helps the grieving, surviving family members or pride or herd mates. It’s really a travesty to think anyone could buy this drivel.
When it comes to The HSUS and Humane Society International, we’re going to devote more resources, in the near and the long term, to fight this enterprise of globe-trotting trophy hunting of the rarest, most remarkable animals in the world. If you’re willing to stand with us, and to support our worldwide campaigns against trophy killing, I’m willing to make you this promise: Cecil won’t have died in vain.
Here’s how you can help fight trophy hunting:
“PETA constituents are not fat cats but pigs, cows, orcas, mice and any other animal in trouble,” says the ‘Real Time’ host, a longtime board member of 35-year-old animal rights organization.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
When an organization has been as effective as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, it’s hard to believe they’ve been around for only 35 years. It all started when some forward-thinking people launched a group that would rip the lid off corporate and government wrongdoing to animals, get behind the scenes in everything from fur ranching to chicken farming and demand that we replace cruel choices with kind ones. Where would we be today without PETA? Before PETA was around, you could pretty much do anything you wanted to animals, anytime, anyhow. And now you can’t — think about that. Being on PETA’s board is a perfect fit for me because PETA takes on the status quo and challenges conventional thinking. I push the envelope because the envelope needs pushing, so I love that PETA doesn’t tiptoe over the line — they jump over it with both feet.
Take PETA president Ingrid Newkirk‘s comments about the twisted killing of Cecil the lion. Perhaps her tongue was planted firmly in cheek when she said Cecil’s killer should be “tried and preferably hanged,” but she put into words what most of us were feeling. Serial killers, like trophy hunters, are cowards who kill in cold blood so they can decorate their “man caves” with animals’ heads. They deserve about as much empathy as they afford their victims: none. In a news cycle of sound bites, PETA is a household name — they’re the Beyonce of charities. They never waver in their belief that they can win for animals. Sure, they face pushback for forcing us to take a hard look at ourselves, but we do look. That kind of approach gets things done, like having Ringling Bros. finally recognize that people “get” that elephants aren’t meant to wear silly hats and do headstands.
Unlike lion killers, PETA only goes after fair game: anyone who hurts animals. They are equal-opportunity critics — they’ll call anyone out and praise anyone who does right. PETA has closed animal labs and convinced the top 10 U.S. ad agencies to stop exploiting great apes. They’ve gotten Tesla to offer all-vegan car seats, Zara’s parent company to donate about $1 million worth of angora garments to refugees rather than sell them and Ikea to dish up vegan Swedish meatballs. Who would have imagined any of that 35 years ago?
PETA’s goal is to make a kinder world for animals. I agree with that. And so does my rescue dog, whom I love for a lot of reasons — one being that every time I come home, he greets me like I’m The Beatles. We need more people who stick up for the underdog and undermouse. This country is not overrun with rebels and freethinkers; it’s overrun with conformists. And PETA has never conformed. That’s why I’m right there with them, full on.
Bill Maher is a comedian, author, host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher and an 18-year board member of PETA.
Read more from THR’s philanthropy issue below.
Wayne Bisbee is founder of Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization that promotes conservation programs through science, education and technology. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN)The recent illegal killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe has understandably generated passionate and emotional responses from around the world.
I agree with the common sentiment that the circumstances around Cecil’s death are abhorrent and those responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I also think it’s unfortunate that legitimate hunters are given a public black eye by this case.
Let’s face it, we all feel strongly about this issue, whether we’re animal activists, conservationists, or hunters. Many of us have the same basic goal: to ensure that endangered species are here for generations to come.
That’s why I advocate conservation through commerce, which are controlled and high-dollar hunts whose proceeds benefit animal conservation. This is one of numerous legal, logical and effective tools to humanely manage resources, raise awareness of endangered animals, and help fund solutions.
Yes, I am an avid hunter. I enjoy the thrill and challenge of stalking an animal and providing a more natural, healthier meat protein source to my family than what is available from the commercial food industry.
Today, most hunters see the activity as sport. But hunting has been around as long as man and it’s not likely to go away any time soon. Billions of the world’s human population eat animal meat for protein, and this is not going to change. So the reality is that somewhere, somehow, millions of animals are killed every day to sustain human life.
Does that mean I hate animals? Absolutely not. I love wildlife and I’m not alone among hunters. In a study published in the March 2015 issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management, researchers from Clemson University and Cornell University found that “wildlife recreationists — both hunters and birdwatchers — were 4 to 5 times more likely than non-recreationists to engage in conservation behaviors, which included a suite of activities such as donating to support local conservation efforts, enhancing wildlife habitat on public lands, advocating for wildlife recreation, and participating in local environmental groups.”
Hunters are more likely than non-hunters to put our money and time where our mouths are. It makes sense when you think about it. Hunters have a vested interest in keeping exotic and endangered animals from going extinct.
It’s about resource management
All animals, from wolves to rhinos to humans, are hierarchical. In the animal kingdom there are alpha males who try to eliminate competition. An older member of a herd often isn’t ready to step aside just because he can no longer perform his reproductive duties.
Older, post-breeding males are also very often aggressive and interfere with the proliferation of the rest of the herd, especially in the rhino species. That’s why a legitimate trophy hunt to benefit conservation can remove a problem animal from a herd. …
[WTF? Does that mean shooting an animal with an arrow and pursuing it for 40 long hours before killing it is considered “humane” for hunters? I’ve heard enough. If you want to read more of this bullshit article, it continues here]: http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/11/opinions/bisbee-legal-hunting/index.html
That’s a loose adaptation of Ingrid Newkirk’s famous saying. Translation: in terms of being capable of suffering and having a will to live, we’re all created pretty much equal.
But the other night, when I shared Vegan Outreach’s post, “I Am Cecil,” one reader was troubled by its perceived message that seems to compare an endangered, charismatic predator to a factory-farmed pig.
I can understand both sides. Wildlife advocates are screaming for blood, in a war cry heard round the world, while animal-rights activists are hoping to harness the outrage that people are feeling over the abuses suffered by this beloved lion. On one hand there’s Cecil the lion, who was hit with an arrow and pursued for forty hours before finally being shot, decapitated and skinned. At the same time—each and every day—animals by the billions suffer endlessly on factory farms and almost no one seems to care or pay them any mind.
I’ve seen this kind of situation before. Back in 1999, members of Washington’s Makah Tribe were planning a trophy hunt of their own. Their target? An innocuous grey whale. Long story short, much to the dismay of whale advocates, a “sacrificial” whale was shot with a fifty caliber elephant gun. Meanwhile, somewhere in the Midwest, millions of chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, etc. were in effect sacrificed as well by people who had never heard of the Makah’s or seen a grey whale.
The only good I can think of that came out of the whole bit of ugliness was, after considering the hypocrisy of advocating for one species of animal while still eating others, my wife and I swore off meat and have been vegan ever since. As a result of 16 years of veganism (times 2), thousands of animals have been spared the horrors of factory farming.
Of course I’d love to see the uproar over Cecil become the final death knell for trophy hunting that wrenches control of wildlife from the hands of hunters and their government apologists. But, while we’re waiting, concerned people can actively end a lot of animal suffering every time they pass a drive-through window or a sit-down steak house restaurant. And folks who make the ethical switch to a plant-based diet would not likely be inclined to pay $50,000 for the sick thrill of killing a lion with an arrow.
The man traveled clear across the world – from the suburbs of Minneapolis into the pay-to-slay world of Zimbabwe, where dictator Robert Mugabe sells off hunting rights and other natural resources to the highest bidders – for the chance to kill the king of beasts. In this case, the victim was a lion who has been widely photographed and somewhat habituated to a non-threatening human presence in Hwange National Park. The hunt was a “guaranteed kill” arrangement, where Palmer paid about $50,000 to hire professional guides to help him complete the task. The local guides knew exactly what they were doing. In the dark of night, they lure a famed, black-maned lion from an otherwise protected area, with a dead carcass as bait. Palmer then stuck Cecil with an arrow.
Even though he’s used that weapon to kill countless other rare animals all over the globe – from leopards to black bears to Argali sheep – Palmer didn’t deliver a killing shot. He wounded the animal, and because he did it at night, I bet he didn’t have the courage to track the animal at that time. So he waited, while the lion tried to live minute to minute and hour to hour after receiving the stab wound from the arrow. At some point, Walter and the professional guides resumed the chase. It took them nearly two days to find him, and then they apparently shot him with a firearm. The killers then removed a radio collar nestled around his neck – because Cecil was also the object of a study by Oxford researchers. Some reports say they tried to disable the signal from the collar, unsuccessfully. The team took the customary pictures of the westerner guy standing atop a beautiful, muscled animal, and then they decapitated and skinned him, as keepsakes for Palmer’s global crossing in order to conduct a pointless killing.
The lion is one of Safari Club International’s Africa Big Five, along with elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo, and the idea of killing each of them motivates thousands of wealthy people to do it. It’s one of more than 30 hunting achievement and “inner circle” awards you can get if you become a member of Safari Club – including Cats of the World, Bears of the World, and Antlered Game of North America. If you win all of the awards, and there are plenty people who do, you have to shoot more than 320 different species and subspecies of large animals. In the process, you spend millions of dollars, in addition to spilling an awful lot of blood and spreading a lot of death.
Partly because of the dramatic decline in lion populations, and also to stop heartless and selfish people like Palmer from meting out so much pain and suffering, The HSUS and HSI filed a petition four years ago to protect lions under the terms of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Last October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to its credit, proposed a rule to list the lions as threatened.
The United States is the world’s largest importer of African lion parts as hunting trophies and for commercial purposes. Between 1999 and 2013, the United States imported about 5,763 wild-source lions just for hunting trophy purposes; and the last five years of this period averages to 378 wild-source lions per year. Worse, this number has increased in recent years. That’s a lot of Walter Palmers doing ugly things.
The Oxford University study Cecil was part of was looking into the impact of sports hunting on lions living in the safari area surrounding the national park. The research found that 34 of 62 tagged lions died during the study period. Of these, 24 were shot by sport hunters.
When we think of Bengal or Siberian tigers, we think of big cats nearing extinction. We should think the same way about lions, since their populations have been plummeting. They are in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
For most of us, when we learn they are in crisis, we want to help — to protect them from harm, because we empathize with their plight.
But for one subculture in the U.S., when wildlife are rare, that means they want to rush in and kill them precisely because they can do something that few others can. It’s like the rush of trophy hunters to Canada to shoot polar bears when the United States announced it planned to list them. “Let me shoot a polar bear before they are all gone!” They want to distinguish themselves from others who live in the world of competitive hunting.
Sadly, Cecil’s story is not unique – American hunters kill hundreds of African lions each year and are contributing to the steady decline of the species. Today we sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which recently took steps to protect chimpanzees and African elephants, urging the agency to make final its regulation to upgrade the legal status of lions, to restrict people from trekking to Africa and bringing back their parts for no good reason. Not for food. For vanity. For ego gratification. And because they are morally deadened.
Editor’s note: This version has updated numbers on wild-source lions trophy-hunted each year.
Also from Wayne: Miss Cecil the lion? End trophy hunting
Because, as with other serial killers, Trophy Hunters want their victims to remain anonymous. They make every effort to depersonalize their living targets, so the last thing they want is someone giving them a human name and an identity.
To prove the point, consider the following excerpt from an unapproved comment by a hunter received today and printed here in full (grammatical errors intact):
Look rule of thumb.If your a hunter you don’t harvest an animal your kids have tagged with a silly human name with human attributes attached.So silly tourists who drive around in raised vehicle leaving them safe from good old Cecils claws and teeth got undercut by another silly American paying a huge fee to use his permit on a lion .
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it is up to the Justice Department to respond to an extradition order.
The incident is currently being investigated by Zimbabwean authorities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The trophy-hunting apologists are coming out of the woodwork…
Vote NO here: Big game hunting: Conservation or cruelty?
Alaska serial killer/big game hunter Robert Hansen, with his trophy kill.