Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Choosing Targets

I'm no fan of hunting. Especially by guys with fat wallets and full stomachs. And yet, the case of Walter Palmer, the lion-killing dentist, bothers me.

Walter Palmer isn't a poacher. He's not Kim Davis. He paid lots of money and went through all the proper channels to arrange his safari. He did everything he could to ensure his trip fell within the boundaries of Zimbabwean law.

Not being a local, he couldn't have known his guides were something less than conscientious, and would stoop to luring the lion known as Cecil from a nature reserve with food, setting it (and Palmer) up for assassination.

Palmer isn't the first person to go to an exotic land and shoot an animal. He isn't the first to look at a magnificent creature and see only a trophy for the wall of his den, confirming to all the unquestionable masculinity of the inhabitant.

Which is why I feel the avalanche of protest generated by this event is all out of proportion to the event itself. It's like ostracizing someone because they received a speeding ticket.

However you—or I—feel about hunting, it's legal. The worst thing Palmer did was hire guides with a very casual relationship with the law. Singling him out and making him the poster boy for centuries of reckless and destructive big game hunting is wrong.

As our mothers told us, two wrongs don't make a right. Morality is not algebra.

Yes, I am disturbed by the wholesale habitat destruction and plunder wrought by China's newly wealthy population, a population which is roughly four times that of our own habitat-destroying and plundering one.

I can't look at a tiger, knowing its singular majesty is consigning it to extinction in the wild. I can't forget Tatiana, a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo who died a death as grotesque and unfair as Cecil's.

I am not unsympathetic to animals or the people who love them.

But in the wake of Palmer's prolonged vilification, I am tempted to say he is as big a victim as Cecil.

If it is the laws we hate, then we should change the laws. If it is the attitudes we hate, then we should change the attitudes. Let's redirect this avalanche of energy towards making hunting—if not illegal—a little less-attractive.

Let's spearhead a you're-not-what-you-kill movement. Make sure the only shooting we do of wildlife is with cameras.

If we want fair, we must first exhibit fairness.

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