The Verdict: Killing Cecil Was Legal

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Oct 12, 2015 8:12 PM
The Verdict: Killing Cecil Was Legal

To those of you who were foaming at the mouth in rage over Walter Palmer killing some dumb lion, the debate is over. Walter Palmer, who killed poor, poor Cecil, isn’t a murderer. He was hunting; an activity that millions of Americans partake in every day. The only exception is that he was in Africa, which is awesome, hunting lions, which is even more awesome. And he did so with a bow-and-arrow, which is pretty hardcore. Oh, and this was all perfectly legal:

Zimbabwe will not charge American dentist Walter Palmer for killing its most prized lion in July because he had obtained legal authority to conduct the hunt, a Cabinet minister said on Monday, angering conservationists.

Palmer, a lifelong big-game hunter from Minnesota, touched off a global controversy when he killed Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, with a bow and arrow outside Hwange National Park in Western Zimbabwe.

Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said on Monday that Palmer's hunting papers were in order, and therefore he could not be charged.

"We approached the police and then the prosecutor general, and it turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order," Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said Palmer would be free to visit Zimbabwe as a tourist in the future but not as a hunter. The implication was that Palmer would not be issued the permits a hunter needs.

The environment minister's comments immediately drew the ire of the animal conservation group Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, which maintained that Palmer had committed a crime and said it planned to pursue legal action against him in the United States.>

Palmer forked over about $50,000 to take down Cecil. In September, Palmer returned to his dental practice under police escort, as protestors shouted “murderer!” when he approached his office.

“I’m a health professional. I need to get back to treating my patients. My staff and my patients support me, and they want me back. That’s why I’m back,” he said.

What’s so ironic about this whole fiasco is that no one really cared about Cecil in Zimbabwe–and the natives were pretty much unaware of his existence until some animal lovers started to raise a social media army to go after Palmer for straight-up owning Cecil. With a country embroiled in socioeconomic troubles, a dead lion is met with merely a shrug, as Florida Rumidzai Mapeto wrote in IJ Review last summer. While she did say that the death of Cecil was sad, people who are enraged by this incident need to get a grip:

…whilst I find nature attractive and beautiful, and I love wild animals, I honestly have much bigger problems than the illegal shooting of a wild cat. I am not trying to be insensitive, it is just me, it just our culture. I was brought up in a society which respects the sanctity of human life and human dignities. I was taught, and I know it is very un-African to feed my dog when just outside my front gate a fellow country man starves. I can never elevate the life of an animal above that of a human being, and I can with all authority say the same for most if not all Zimbabweans.

[…]

As we speak, Zimbabwe has an unemployment rate nearing a staggering 93 percent. The bulk of the population survive on inner city informal vending of cheap imported second hand goods. Both of which have now been banned, rendering the livelihoods of over seven million redundant and illegal. Now how do you tell someone who just got retrenched from their job with no benefits that the world is outraged over a dead lion?

So you see, whilst I worry about what will happen to Cecil’s seven cubs and what they will eat, or if they will survive in the jungle, I worry more about the fate of the seven million black Zimbabweans and their offspring. Theirs is truly a desperate situation. Trapped, hungry, and with all avenues to survival blocked. They face a real possibility of unforgiving death.

[…]

The Tsonga people of these communities, despite living in Cecil’s backyard also knew nothing about him, and to make matters worse, these are probably the most under-developed towns in the entire country. To claim that these people, surviving on subsistence farming relied on Cecil for a living is to mock their struggle for development and self-actualisation. It is frankly offensive, presumptuous and misinformed.

[…]

Allow me to categorically state that, Cecil matters, he does, but we really didn’t know him and would not choose a lion over the Zimbabwean lives facing bleak events. In a nutshell, requiring us to be sympathetic over this issue is like asking a woman who has had no groceries in her kitchen for a year to worry and get mad over a missing plate or spoon. I rest my case.

Cecil is dead. Gone. Poof! Into the wind, and he’s not ever coming back. In other news, the Islamic State might have come into possession of American-made missiles, which is an actual news story. So, instead of all of us worrying about some dumb lion getting completely owned by a bow and arrow, let’s focus on other pressing issues.