I can think of few moments I have observed on Facebook that compare to the response I’ve seen from people regarding the killing of Cecil, the lion. The uproar in my timeline is pretty dramatic, and rightfully so. While I have posted nothing on the matter myself, I’ve been following the story. I’m among those who find it hard to get into the head of someone who’d not only take interest in killing a lion but would also be willing to pay a good chunk of money to have the opportunity set up.
I have to admit, however, that the response had me thinking. Why isn’t the uproar greater over the killing of our fellow citizens by police?
Cecil deserved to live, as does any creature. But Cecil was killed, not by a security force charged with protection, but by a wealthy hunter gone to a foreign country with the intention of killing an animal. Many of the people upset about Cecil’s death eat meat, and their demand results in the deaths of more creatures than a lion. The faceless and nameless pigs and cows and chickens usually live lives in conditions much worse than Cecil’s.
Most of us have killed an animal directly, if even just by swatting flies or mosquitoes, or spraying a spider with Raid. This summer, I killed an entire colony of ants. Yes, Cecil is a rare animal, more regal, far more intelligent than common ants, and he was not harming anyone; killing an animal in order to eat or defend your home from damage is completely different from killing to feel an ego rush. Even so, his killing should leave us wondering why we value certain creatures more than others, and if we’re so upset about his death, could we perhaps think about how our desires and actions impact all life?
We should also be asking another set of questions. Are we more upset, moved to greater emotions, by the killing of a lion than we are by the killing of our citizens? (It’s not August, but police have killed 605 people in America this year.) Someone will say, “These people getting killed by cops are less-than-noble.” Who deserves to die, for what reason, and who gets to decide? Perhaps we truly are more upset by the killing of our fellow citizens as compared to a lion, but we feel more comfortable expressing our outrage over the death of an animal, outrage pointed at a wealthy, privileged man who’s killing for sport. If that’s true, what do we actually fear? That someone might get annoyed with our outrage over the deaths of our fellow citizens?
I don’t know if social media outrage is an indicator of actual outrage, or a measuring stick of any value. My timeline is only an indicator of whom I choose to follow. I just found it rather striking that my timeline endeared itself so easily to a lion most had hitherto never heard of, while the posts and comments regarding police killings were, at least by comparison, a trickle. I guess I’ve written this post to see if I’m the only one who observed this.
Photo from Wikipedia.