By Ingrid Newkirk
Every bad guy in history tries to use it as a “get out of jail free” card: I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong. And that includes overblown, overprivileged little men like Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, who reportedly paid more than $50,000 to stalk, wound and kill a beloved, well-known lion named Cecil. Even though Cecil was wearing a tracking collar, Palmer, who has spent his life killing all kinds of animals to behead and hang on his wall, claimed ignorance of the lion’s protected status.
The details of what took place are appalling, but while it is unusual for the animal to be so well known, do not think for a second that what I’m about to describe constitutes unusual conduct for the pathetic white men who go to Africa and elsewhere to gun down wildlife.
According to news reports, after luring Cecil out of his protected homeland in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park by tying a dead animal to their truck as irresistible bait, Palmer and his paid accomplices blinded him with a glaring spotlight, making it easy for the trophy hunter to shoot him with a high-powered crossbow. But despite Palmer’s extensive experience in killing, it wasn’t a fatal shot. Cecil lay hidden and wounded for 40 long hours, a steel arrow through his body, before Palmer and his party finally found him and shot him to death. Palmer posed with the dead lion, grinning from ear to ear, before having his assistants skin and decapitate Cecil for his trophy wall, and then just left his body to rot. Zimbabwe authorities said the hunters also tried to destroy Cecil’s collar to hide the evidence.
Is it any surprise that someone so devoid of empathy, understanding and respect for living creatures has already run afoul of the law? Palmer pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2008 for lying to a federal agent about where he had shot a black bear in Wisconsin. He and others had transported the dead bear, who was killed 40 miles outside a legal hunting zone, to a registration station inside the legal area. Palmer was sentenced to one year of probation and fined nearly $3,000.
Palmer is listed as a member of the trophy hunting organization Safari Club International. His kill profile includes 43 victims, including caribou, moose, deer, buffalo, a polar bear and a mountain lion. This is the same outfit that brags that one of its “top priorities” is to reduce the regulatory “burdens” of importing hunting trophies into the United States.
These animals were just living their lives, going about their business and raising their families. What massive emotional disconnect must one have to take joy from such killing? All animals value their lives, but to hunters, they are nothing more than targets.
Palmer and others like him hark back to the early 20th century upper class, which viewed plundering of Africa’s wildlife as a pastime for the privileged. But today’s trophy hunters, with their high-powered weaponry, beheadings and contempt for fundamental human decency, are wildlife’s ISIS. The U.S. and Europe need to ban the importation of heads, horns, feet and other trophies — pronto.