Would you kill this lion for fun? Some people would.
Photo of a male lion in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania,
by Joachim Huber. CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
We’re talking today about our wild cousins, the lions and leopards and tigers, who sometimes find themselves on the wrong end of a trophy hunter’s gun. And let’s not forget about the elephants and rhinos either, even though much of the attention this week has been on one particular lion and the American dentist who shot him.
I know you’ve heard all about how this dentist/hunter paid tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of killing—excuse me, “taking,” because that’s apparently what they call it—a lion, only the lion he “took” turned out to be a beloved fellow named Cecil. It’s easy to join the emotional social-media bandwagon and post or like or retweet nasty things about this one hunter, but that misses two much larger questions:
- Why do people kill animals as trophies? and
- How can it be okay to “conserve” exotic or endangered species by killing them?
The first question I can’t answer at all. I have no idea why some people look at an animal and want to kill it and tote its head home as a wall ornament. I mean, many of you humans do some pretty questionable things on a daily basis, but seriously, what is wrong with these people who just like to kill stuff? Is it about power, domination of nature, a sick form of conspicuous consumption? I’ve asked several people, and no one has provided a satisfactory answer, which leads me to think there isn’t one.
The second argument I can answer a little bit. I don’t agree that it’s okay to conserve endangered animals by killing them, but among those who do, the argument goes like this: $$$$
Some of the money made from trophy hunting gets put into conservation efforts to help the remaining animals. That was the argument used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in March 2015 when it decided that it would be just fine for hunters to bring parts of endangered black rhinos back home after they killed—I mean “took”—the animals.
Well, all those dollar signs have given me an idea. Lots of worthy causes, not just wildlife conservation, need money, and a fair number of people seem to be willing to pay large sums of hard cash for the privilege of bringing death and/or destruction, so I present the following modest proposal:
Let’s use the conservation-by-killing model on a wider scale, to benefit other worthy causes. Two specific examples spring to mind.
Museums. Museums are always asking for donations to further their work and maintain their collections. So how about this for a fundraising scheme? For a $1,000 donation, you can scribble your name on a relatively “minor” painting. For $50,000, you can tear a rare painting from the wall and set it on fire. For $300,000, you can drive a bulldozer through the front door and over the information desk. Throw in a little more cash, and we’ll make sure a volunteer is seated at the desk when you run over it. Trophy!
Hospitals. And what about those big research hospitals that need funds so their doctors can find cures for cancer and such? Well, let’s say that for the quite reasonable sum of $250,000, a donor will be allowed to stalk and “take” one patient in that hospital. For $500,000, they can lie in wait to “take” a wheelchair-bound patient who has been lured into an ambush area with some tasty non-hospital food. Just think of how proud you’ll be to hang that head on your wall!
Sickening, isn’t it? Stupid, isn’t it? Yes, and so is trophy hunting that pretends it’s conservation.