The stake is up, the torch is lit, and the wood is drenched with kerosene. As the crowd forms, the popcorn and beer (actually sushi and Chardonnay for this crowd) vendors set up shop. The excited crowd cranes its neck, looks around, shields their eyes for a better view.
But where’s the witch to be burned?
In fact, neither lion-hunter Dr James Palmer nor lion-hunting guide Theo Bronkhorst have been found guilty of breaking any laws—i.e. of “poaching.” More alarming still (for some) Bronkhorst’s bail was set at a measly $1,000 and his not-guilty claim is being supported by some people who—get this!—actually know something about lion hunting!
So the much-anticipated burning at the stake is not imminent -- if it occurs at all. Has anyone bothered looking at that teenzy-tiny item?
There’s a reason for this “negligence.” It’s obvious that what inflames most of the crowd lining up for Palmer’s and Bronkhorsts’s Auto da fe isn’t “poaching,” at all. They’re not titillated because a lion-guide might be found guilty and burned at the stake for the lion-hunting equivalent of an expired brake-tag. No, they’re wetting their pants over the anticipated public drawing and quartering of a lion-hunter, period-- trophy hunter in general, actually.
Take Jimmy Kimmel (please!) no, seriously: “I’m honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that (shoot a lion.) How is that fun? Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you need to kill things that are stronger than you?”
“In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions,” reads the title of a fascinating article by Goodwell Nzou, an African who grew surrounded by lions in the countryside of Zimbabwe. The New York Times (no less!) recently gave him this platform for his views on Zimbabwean lions. Granted, even with such a platform and background his views won’t hold a candle against those of Debra Messing, Salma Hayek and Al Franken—but here they are:
“Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror.”
Ask hunters who’ve been on Safari what happens when they whack out a lion or leopard or elephant. Sure, in Hollywood, Manhattan, London and Paris they moan and wail. But in the immediate vicinity of this form of pest-control the locals rejoice! There’s a "Lion Dance" a "Leopard Dance" an "Elephant Dance." “Let’s celebrate!” cheer the locals. “A pest is dead!”
Imagine the bug-spray man coming to your house: "Tell ya what," he says. "I’ll give ya 100 bucks for every roach I kill, $200 for any rats and a cool 500 semolions for a whack at the raccoon messing up your attic."
You’d be dancing the Watusi too. And the Twist and The Hustle and The Bump and the Boot-Scootin’ Boogie. You’d also make sure to have a few of these creatures around for his next visit.
Here’s Paul Funston of South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust: "The real solution to preserving lions lies in giving the local people incentives to tolerate lions on their land.”
“To tolerate,” got that, animal-rightists? In brief, given their fondness for the flesh of African natives’ cattle (and that of the natives themselves) Mr Funston infers that, among rural Africans, lions are normally considered intolerable. But this comes from a person actually familiar with the views of rural Africans.
And you’d be amazed at the tolerance the $50,000 (what it costs a tourist hunter in total fees to shoot an African Lion) generates in a country like Zimbabwe, where annual per-capita income runs around $930.
Point is, those of us who restrict ourselves to blasting Bambi, Thumper, Daffy, Porky, etc. for our Bar-B-Cues, tailgate parties and family feasts better be careful about throwing Simba hunters such as Palmer and Bronkhorst under the bus.
Let’s take a deep breath and back off, please. If social media is any guide, much of the moralistic preening by “food” hunters at Dr. Palmer’s expense seems affected, obnoxious even cowardly—something all too familiar in other settings lately.
Take those “conservatives” who at the first sight of a finger-wagging media mouse, scream, scamper onto a chair and huddle cravenly among snickering liberals for fear of the dreaded label: “racist!”
The pejorative “trophy-hunter!” is running a close second lately—and as with the first insult-- mostly with people allergic to facts.
The results of letting the equivalent of The View studio audiences dictate wildlife management policy is on full display in California, which outlawed sport cougar hunting in 1990. Now "animal-control officers" (supported by hunter license fees) kill more "problem" (eating pets, mawling joggers,etc.) cougars than licensed hunters used to bag!
Facts matter. Stand your ground, lock/ load --and counterattack. Make the facts known--clearly. Outside of studio audiences for The View and Jimmy Kimmel facts are often acknowledged by Americans. So let’s please leave the hysteria, snuffling and finger-wagging to people like the gals hosting The View and to their male (anatomically, at least) counterparts Jimmy Kimmel, Piers Morgan, etc.