Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘#CecilTheLion’

Cecil the Lion in Apocalypse Now

In Eish!, Fools on August 1, 2015 at 4:01 pm

apocalypse_now_by_darkman20-d33safoWhen I first saw the Twitter hashtag #CecilTheLion and followed the link to see a global news story taking shape around an animal, I was taken back over 35 years to a moment watching Francis Ford Coppola’s brutal epic Apocalypse Now.

There was a scene (here, at 1 hr 55 mins) where marines approach a boat carrying a Vietnamese family. The marines, on edge, aim their rifles and machine gun on the boat. The family, understandably, is terrified. When a woman in the boat runs towards something, the marines panic, open fire and massacre the entire family. One of the marines then leans towards where the woman had been running and finds a puppy. Another marine grabs the puppy up by the scruff of its neck. The puppy yelps. I remember the scene so well because the entire audience in the cinema erupted with a sympathetic ‘aaah’. They had just watched women and children being massacred and didn’t make a sound, but cried when a puppy yelped.

If there’s something I’ve learned about media consumer behaviour it’s this: people have a soft spot for animals, but only certain animals. Top of the pile are puppies and kittens, working down through older dogs and cats and other domesticated furry beings – not goldfish, they’re flushable. There’s a special place though for animals featured in animated films, largely because such films portray these animals as cute; especially so when the highly profitable merchandise machine rolls out stuffed toy characters.

And I would hazard a guess that for most people who reacted so strongly to the killing of Cecil the Lion their exposure to lions is limited to The Lion King and the odd TV documentary. They haven’t seen – as I have – a lion rip open the stomach of a screaming baby impala.

Let’s be honest. People reacted strongly not because someone had killed a lion, but because someone had killed a lion that had – arbitrarily – been given a human name. Cecil was Simba from The Lion King; and that’s ridiculous.

I do not condone hunting, although I understand that professional hunting can serve a role in animal conservation. But it’s not a sport unless the playing field is level, that means the hunter must also be the hunted. If you want to hunt a lion, strap an animal carcass to your back and walk around the lion’s territory.

But human sympathy for animals is highly selective – people will proudly drop a coin into a collection box to save the rhino while munching on a McDonald’s Happy Meal that required someone further back in the food chain fire a bolt gun into the brain of a cow. They will justify this by telling themselves that some animals are bred to be consumed while others are allowed to roam freely – as if it’s the reality of some sanctioned genetic lottery; and that’s fine.

And it is, as long as you don’t profess a moral standpoint on it, because then you risk coming across as a hypocrite.