Girl on Fire: Why Cecil’s death matters

[As seen in Creston News Advertiser, August 6, 2015]

There has been a lot of uproar about Cecil the Lion, a mascot of Zimbabwe, Africa, and his death by an American dentist. I saw so many posts on social media and news stories by Time and BBC that I couldn’t read anything else online for a couple days.

For those who hadn’t heard much about this, Cecil the Lion was lured from his animal reserve within a national park in Zimbabwe by a team of hunters who tied a dead animal to the top of their truck. The American dentist shot Cecil with a bow and tracked him for 40 hours before shooting him with a rifle, beheaded and skinned the animal and left the rest for the scavengers.

Something I noticed about this news coverage was how fired up people got about the death of a lion. Now, I agree Cecil’s death was a tragedy because the American dentist, Walter Palmer of Minnesota, wasn’t doing it to survive, but to show off.

But, what I saw on social media were loads of pictures posted about those caring about the death of a lion and not for the deaths of children from malnourishment in foreign countries.

I’m sure after this people will call me a bleeding heart or a hippie tree hugger, which won’t be the first time I’ve heard that and probably not the last, but I think there’s a difference between Cecil and African children.

First, I want to explain I am not against hunting. I don’t hunt personally, but I think it’s commendable when people do their own hunting and use the whole animal. It’s a respectable skill to learn, and keeps animal populations down in a clean way.

Second, Cecil was killed by an American hunter. Therefore, we as Americans are pretty much automatically involved. What Palmer did was not hunting, it was murder. African lions don’t fear humans. The African continent is so hot, lions sit next to safari vehicles with humans driving just to get a little bit of shade. These lions are also highly endangered, and by killing one, Cecil’s cubs are pretty much guaranteed a death sentence because the new alpha will kill those who could rise against him.

For those who know me, or have read my previous columns, I hope you know by now I can never say we shouldn’t help people. I truly hope we can help as many people in this world as humanly possible. But, sometimes, that’s just not possible. The deaths of children around the world do not involve Americans, therefore it’s very hard to get politically involved somewhere America shouldn’t be. We are no longer the “world’s police,” like we were in the 20th century, and we shouldn’t be anyways. We are just like everyone else, not above them.

I know there are ways we can help people and animal conservation, and that’s what I want to promote here. There are many church groups in Creston with individuals who believe, as I do, we can do our part. They put together meals and birthing kits to send to those in unsafe global regions. I am sure there are other groups in our area or throughout the state of Iowa that work toward other things, like eliminating poverty within our country as well as without, and protecting the animals humans as a whole have eliminated to the very last creature.

So, in essence, Cecil’s death matters because it shows we can step forward as a whole and try to do something about it. I truly hope we can do just that, stop the unnecessary deaths of animals and people by working together.

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