They’re Cecil too
I was astounded by the outpouring of public outrage and anger over the killing of Cecil the lion by Walter Palmer in a Zimbabwe sanctuary. I do not recall ever seeing such an intense and negative response to any mistreatment of animals. I’m happy about it; it demonstrates the public’s ability to feel compassion towards non-human animals. I was also amazed by the cognitive dissonance. Most of those who were outraged do eat meat, eggs, and dairy, all products of factory farming, which every year causes great suffering and kills billions of sentient, smart, and beautiful animals. Not to mention the fact that it negatively impacts biodiversity and thus other species.
I follow various animal rights activists, groups and organizations, so I do come across many stories about atrocities committed to animals. My Facebook feed is saturated with pictures, videos and information about animal abuse and cruelty. The vast majority of the victims are “farm” animals. No wonder I’m in a constant state of outrage and horror about all of it.
When I saw the now infamous picture of Cecil the lion with his killer, it did not cause me to feel more upset or angry than the other pictures I normally see. It was a run-of-the-mill trophy hunting picture; I do see lots of them on Facebook. Beautiful creatures, from deer to giraffes to rhinos, and their killers, men, women and kids, smiling proudly next to their dead victims. The images are very disturbing.
On the other side of the scale there are the pictures and videos that upset, depress, anger and sicken me even more. Images which depict not only the animals’ dead bodies, but also their suffering, miserable lives, and the torture they go through from the moment they’re born to the moment they die. Billions of sentient creatures who are raised in the food industry every year, confined in cages too small for them to move, their babies are taken away from then, their body parts are cut off without anesthetics, and they are brutally killed.
And the negative aspects of animal-sourced food consumption do not end with the animals who are used for food. Eating meat is the biggest single threat to biodiversity, as found in a recent study conducted by a team of scientists from Florida International University. They stated: “The consumption of animal-sourced food products by humans is one of the most powerful negative forces affecting the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems and biological diversity. Livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss”. More land is cleared for “farm” animals and for crops to feed them. Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist who studies the effects of human diets on the environment, told Science Magazine: ” You eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot.”
Is the killing of Cecil more immoral than the torture and butchering of a chicken, a pig, or a cow, who was eaten last evening for dinner? In my opinion no. Both killings are for pleasure, and both are unnecessary. Moreover, between the two wrongs, killing Cecil in my opinion is less immoral. Here is why:
Cecil the lion lived 13 years in a natural habitat, surrounded by his family and pride members. He was free, physically and mentally, ate what he chose to, associated with his fellow lions as he desired, and acted like a lion. He was not deprived of his natural needs, until he was injured and then killed. If you take any “factory farm” animal, who is used for meat, milk, or eggs, you’ll find out that natural habitat, and freedom from harm and suffering, are not things those animals ever get to experience. Nor do they get to live as long as mother nature would allow them.
We do not only interfere with nature in the way we treat “farm” animals, we devastate nature by allowing animal consumption to damage biodiversity, and the lives of many other creatures.
Every time we bite on an animal, no matter how small the piece is, it is a part of what was a beautiful, sentient and helpless creature, like a baby, who suffered and was brutally killed.
If I had to choose, I would rather live and die like Cecil than any animal who ends up on a plate. Wouldn’t you?
 Machovina, Brian, Kenneth J. Feeley, and William J. Ripple. “Biodiversity conservation: The key is reducing meat consumption.” Science of The Total Environment 536 (2015): 419-431.
Picture courtesy of Dana Ellyn, danaellyn.com