Over the last few days the internet has blown up over the horrific news report of the brutal hunt and subsequent death of Cecil the lion. Now, for a lot of us, I’m fairly confident we didn’t even know there was a Cecil the Lion before the story broke. For those same people, the thought that someone would lure an animal away from a protected habitat, shoot it with an arrow and then track the wounded animal before eventually killing it is incredibly upsetting. Not because that animal had a name, not because he was famous but because, quite simply, it’s not a very nice thing to do.
I’ll be honest, when I read the first reports I felt like crying. I have a dog and the thought that something equally brutal and horrific might happen to him is incredibly upsetting. I donate to IFAW and have supported plenty of other animal charities in the past and, frankly, the thought of any animal being treated in that way is upsetting. Where possible, I shop free range and buy pole and line canned tuna and I signed numerous petitions against the government bringing back fox hunting. Because I disagree with the brutal treatment of animals and like to consider myself an animal lover. BUT, I have also been fishing and once dated someone who went on pheasant shoots. I’ve even dined on the spoils of these shoots, preparing and cooking the pheasant myself. I get that this is massively hypocritical of me, caring for animals in some ways but advocating the killing of them in others, but I also don’t think it negates my empathy and outrage over the act of hunting a majestic creature just to cut its head off and skin it so you can display the trophy of your, what? Male prowess, superiority over animals, impressive might?
This morning I wake up to find the internet is busy tearing itself apart over who gets to give a shit. According to a number of posts, if I eat meat I cannot claim to be horrified by the death of Cecil. I cannot claim it is ecologically unsound, brutal or anything else because I am, by proxy a killer of animals and therefore as bad as Palmer and men and women like him. Which brings me to the crux of the matter, I do eat meat. I like eating meat. I love steak and I know that the way my steak makes its way from cow to plate is undoubtedly cruel and unnecessary. I know that calves are torn away from their mothers so that I can enjoy proper milk in my tea. I get that chicks are culled and ground up if they have no use in the poultry industry. I have watched various films documenting the awful treatment of animals in the commercial farming industry and, although I get that it is unpleasant and completely unnecessary, I separate my emotions from the food I eat. I think there may be some sort of sociopathic trait in me that makes this possible. Sometimes, I just don’t care.
There, I’ve said it and I’m not apologising. I can appreciate cute fluffy lambs and adorable piglets and look into the oh so human eyes of a cow and still sit down to eat any one of them. I’ve spent a lot of time living on a farm, my parents rented their land to a small holding and I never once had an issue about making ‘friends’ with the animals I was later going to eat. Both the small holding and the farm were organic and relatively ethical (I say relatively because I do understand a process which is going to involve the killing of an animal at some point cannot be called truly ethical). Commercial farming is not, commercial farming is horrific and designed to rape the land until it has nothing left to give. That goes for the growing of crops as well. Hence the buying free range, organic, pole and line and anything else I can do to help save the world, even if it’s only a tiny bit.
Because it does help. I can claim empathy for the tragic death of a lion, I can contribute to animal charities and I can have a pet without having to give up my meat eating ways. I can do a little or a lot to help save the world and none of my efforts are invalid. This issue is not with us omnivores but with the people who hunt and kill animals for shits and giggles. Alright, perhaps my anger and outrage isn’t as righteous as the anger and outrage of someone who absolutely does not advocate the killing of animals for any reason whatsoever but it is still valid. Why are we attacking each other over who does or doesn’t have a right to complain over this? Surely a united front is a more successful front? Carry on the way we are going and it becomes vegans versus the whole world for everything, and I get that maybe for a vegan this is, possibly, a viable argument, because as far as they are concerned we are wrong (and yeah, we probably are). But surely this particular issue should be approached as the whole world versus those who hunt and kill animals for sport?
And that brings me onto my inflammatory title. Clearly I do care about the death of Cecil, I am continuing to support animal charities and of course, I’m not selling my dog. I am allowed to feel outrage, as is anyone, be they meat eaters, vegetarians, Ricky Gervais, or anyone else for that matter. Because there is a moral difference, it may be tiny but Trophy Hunting is distinctly different to whether or not I eat burgers and eggs and drink milk, and it is something we should all be up in arms about. But, I’m a stubborn fucker and, sadly, the articles and comments currently doing the rounds are more likely to make me dig my heels in, buy more steak and say fuck all the animals.