International outrage has been sparked over the killing of Cecil, the lion who lived in the Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe since 2012. He was 13 years old.
Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding justice for Cecil. The lion was murdered by Dr. Walter J. Palmer, a Minnesota dentist and hunter known for killing big game with a bow and arrow.
One night in early July Palmer and his hunting party tied a dead animal to a car in order to lure Cecil out of his sanctuary in the National Park. As in a church, sanctuaries are holy places. Cecil followed the scent, entered unprotected territory, and shot with a crossbow which did not immediately kill him. He was tracked for nearly two days before Palmer killed him with a gun, and then beheaded, skinned, and left Cecil to rot.
In a letter to his dental patients, Palmer avows that what he did has “nothing to do with my profession or the care I provide for you.” This amounts to saying that he is still the man we have always known. This is equivalent to disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong who repeatedly covered up his doping during the Tour de France. He is not the man the world thought he was. Armstrong will forever be the cyclist who took drugs to win.
Palmer will always be the man who mercilessly murdered an entrapped animal. In 2008 Palmer pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal officials about the killing of a black bear in Wisconsin. Palmer is a disgraced individual.
His letter has further outrageous statements. He tries to defuse his guilt by claiming that he “relied on his professional guides to ensure a legal hunt,” and apologizes to his patients for the “inconvenience” this episode is causing them! There is no insight at all about his disgusting behavior.
In his recent encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis pays a great deal of attention to treatment of animals. Animals do not exist solely for our use or enjoyment. They possess value in their own right. Francis writes that “our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people.”
It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. Every act of cruelty is contrary to human dignity.
What Palmer did is disgusting and appalling and deserves our utmost condemnation.