If nothing else, the recent killing of Cecil the lion illustrates the deep divide between people in the United States regarding animal-related issues.
They tend to represent two extremes, each possessing their own set of shortcomings.
On one side are those who don’t believe an animal should ever be killed for any purpose. These are probably the same individuals who dress their pet chihuahuas in Santa Claus suits at Christmastime.
Those occupying the other extreme tend to view animals as creatures that exist to benefit mankind, plain and simple. This includes not only the food and clothing resources they represent, but “sporting” purposes including African safaris, which is what led to Cecil being shot in Zimbabwe early last month.
I fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, which can be a difficult stance to take — not unlike how the modern two-party political system essentially pigeonholes Democrats or Republicans to be either far left or far right.
Since I grew up in the country with a dad who raised rabbit beagles and took me hunting all the time when I was young, I don’t have a problem with animals being killed — but only under the right circumstances.
The truth is, many people in our rural neck of the woods have depended on the hunting of wild game over the years to feed their families who otherwise would have starved.
Therefore, I strongly believe someone should not shoot a deer, rabbit, squirrel, game bird, etc., unless they plan to consume what they kill or make sure someone else does, as with the Hunters for the Hungry program.
My justification for that boils down to the law of the jungle. If I went out in the woods one day and encountered a ravenous bear or mountain lion, I’m sure it would waste no time killing and eating me. So if I’m hungry, the same survival instinct applies with downing an animal.
Where I part company with some hunters is the so-called “sporting” aspect of what they do, just killing animals for the fun of it whether the meat goes to waste or not.
I am always amused by the macho men who don their camouflage and high-powered rifles with scopes and head into the forest as if they’re going after King Kong rather than Bambi’s father. Deer hunters will use scents and lures and sit back in their safe little tree stands hoping to get that trophy buck in their sights, never mind the food aspect.
Then if they do happen to bag one, they’ll take all kinds of photos showing them with goofy grins sitting on the tailgate of the pickup while holding up the head of the dead deer as if they were the biggest, baddest studs who ever lived.
Well, dudes, if you want to impress me with your “sportsmanship” abilities, leave behind the assault rifles and camouflage and go out into a wilderness full of deadly beasts with nothing but a loin cloth and a machete.
And the so-called hunters who patronage these rich-boy resorts and pay big bucks (pardon the pun) to shoot some animal are the worst of the lot. That is kind of how old Cecil, who was part of a protected group of lions, met his demise in Africa during an alleged illegal hunt financed by a Minnesota dentist.
Deer hunters especially will defend their practice of killing — and not necessarily eating — their prey as a way to keep the deer population from running rampant. I don’t really buy that argument, which also could be used to justify the extermination of people to remedy an over-populated planet.
Yet my condemnation of these folks isn’t aimed at letting the extremist animal-lovers off the hook.
Their uproar over the death of Cecil is truly amazing, which strangely has far surpassed concerns about the beheadings of people by Middle East terrorists or the recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police in the U.S.
Undoubtedly, there are people who will help an animal on the side of the road when they wouldn’t bother with a human in need.
But many animal-lovers pick and choose their causes. They don’t stop to think about where the leather jacket, belt or shoes they might be wearing came from, or the fact millions of chickens are routinely slaughtered so people can stuff their fat jaws with buffalo wings.
Can you say “hypocrites?”
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.