What Does This Dead Lion Tell Us About Our Confused Relationship With Other Animals?

13/08/2015 11:24 BST | Updated 11/08/2016 10:59 BST

Have you heard enough about Cecil yet? No?! Well, read on!

The other day I got into what you might call a very minor spat with The News Hub contributor Lazar Baćović. In summary, I took exception to Lazar's use of the words "dumb" and "lazy" as descriptors of Cecil, the dead lion. Skimming through his article again, I see that he also sprinkled in the adjectives "dirty", "violent" and "merciless" - all aimed squarely at the high profile victim.

In his article, Baćović makes the point that our relationship with other animals is inconsistent, and nonsensical, and cites the industrialised slaughter of animals for food - which continues apace, despite widespread knowledge of the grotesque levels of suffering this causes. He also mentions a well known problem that affects the conservation efforts geared towards helping threatened and endangered species', which is, there tends to be more of an appetite to invest time and resources into protecting "magnificent" and "beautiful" creatures - like Cecil - rather than the weird and ugly ones. His point - which is an important one to make, and which was the subject of a previous article of mine - is that we tend only to be interested in the animals that can easily be anthropomorphised, and which are pleasing to the human eye.

Baćović then falls into the trap of blaming the victim. It is not enough to recognise the very real, terribly damaging, hypocrisy that is the setting condition for our relationship to animals, and to work from there. Somehow, we must now look on the lion as "one of the dumbest and laziest animals that exist." Baćović continues:

"The killing of Cecil was not a crime. It was killing of predatory species that itself is a murderer. That would have killed small children, if hungry or angry."

So, the arrow that pierced the lion's flesh was retribution. Based upon its evolutionary position at the top of the food chain, it deserved to die, because that is the fate it would inflict on others.

This completely warped logic is of course easily exposed, but it is also dangerous. It opens the door to further acts of barbarity, in a world where - any objective assessment must conclude - there is already a surfeit of pain and suffering.

How does an incoherent verbal assault on a dead lion - and by extension, presumably, other lions, and predators - help the millions of pigs, chickens, cows, geese, dogs, horses, fish, turkeys and sheep that are butchered every week? By singling out one of the very few protected species, and condemning it to death too, we are not exactly tackling the problem.

The illogicality at work here reminds me of the Danish radio host that killed a rabbit live on air, in support of animal welfare. Maybe if someone had threatened to kill him in support of human rights he might've dropped the idea.

Let's not confuse an important issue with gimmicks and publicity stunts, and let's finally move away from attaching human terms to other animals. It is meaningless, and it obstructs the truth: a lion is just a lion, and it has the same right to exist as any other creature, regardless of whether it is deemed useful to humans.