I don’t have a problem with hunting. Or hunters. Or eating some tasty wild game for that matter. I’ve helped raised three boys, they all know how to handle a firearm properly and two of them are avid hunters. They’ve grown up on wild pig, venison, elk, bear, buffalo (culled from a local farm), squirrel, duck, dove, and turkey. Most of the game is hunted with a bow, and with a religious foundation of ethical hunting tenets – you kill it you eat it, abide by hunting laws, and respect the privilege. I’ve always supported the ability to hunt even in an age where I can ‘buy organically’ because I understand that thousands of years of evolutionary behavior cannot be tamed. (We don’t need to have sex anymore in order to procreate, but……)
I do have a problem with trophy hunting, particularly in this day and age of fragile ecosystems and endangered species. When we take out the elk with the biggest rack, the tom with the longest beard, or the lion with the largest head, we aren’t just eliminating an old animal that would die soon anyway. We are eliminating the best gene pool from the species and this is costing us in the long run. It also belies a level of disrespect for nature, something many hunters claim to possess in great quantities.
Cecil got to his ripe old age because he fought and clawed his way there. His genetic make-up is obviously strong and in the scheme of things its desirable to have those valuable genes passed down as often and as much as possible. Cecil was old, but even another two years of breeding allows for a better family in the long run. Translating the idea to other animals, take deer hunting for example, when we continue to hunt trophy animals we eventually deplete the strongest gene pools and we end up with fewer and fewer six- and seven-point bucks. It’s a very real issue in my area.
There’s another issue to consider as well. We bi-pedals are obligated to take a moral high road. Cecil earned his stripes by being top of the line for years, doesn’t he also earn a certain amount of conscious respect from his fellow animals for having done so – especially in the wild? I mean if we claim to have some sort of spiritual respect for nature and the place that hunting has within it, then the achievement of a long lived life in the wild deserves respect in its own right. Cecil’s life got no respect from the man who shot him and the guides that enabled the action. No wonder plenty of people are outraged.
When Gandalf gave the sword Sting to Bilbo Baggins, he advised him strongly with these words: “True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”
Here’s to you Cecil, for a life long lived, a life well lived, and a life that reached far beyond the norm. We should all hope to have the same.