Cecil the Lion’s Avengers Teach Children How to Be Cyberbullies

In case you did not know, a dentist from Minnesota hunted and killed the famous lion from Zimbabwe: Cecil. The internet has been raging ever since this event, causing unbelievable backlash towards the hunter, to the point where I had to write an entire blog post about why all of this is so incredibly misplaced. Here goes.

The Animal Stuff

Whether or not you’re an animal rights advocate, you don’t care about animal rights, or you’re right in between and respect animals but also respect the tradition of hunting, the truth is that according to Zimbabwe law, this was an illegal hunt, since Cecil was collared and living in a protected reserve. He was allegedly lured out of the reserve into a legal hunting area to be killed. Who is to blame for this? The hunter? The guides? I think that if you’re someone hunting this kind of game, you’re well aware of the laws surrounding it, however I can’t possibly imagine this guy woke up and said “let’s go shoot an illegal lion today.” If he wanted to do that, he wouldn’t have spent the $50,000 to buy a hunting permit for the trip.

For more on the ethics of licensed trophy hunting, which I’m not here to discuss nor do I have a stake in, please see this rare item on the internet: a piece of literature surrounding the biological effects of this conservation effort. The short version is that the matter is highly complicated, but there is certainly enough evidence to support ongoing investigation of the effectiveness. In science words, that means that arguing against this practice without a few more years of data is irresponsible, but it doesn’t mean those against it are wrong. It just means that more data is required. Source: I’m a scientist.

Should these hunters have let the animal bleed out for 2 days before killing it? I want to say of course not, but maybe there’s a reason they did. Wounded lions are dangerous. I don’t know, I’m not a hunter, and if I was, I’d listen to the advice of my nationally certified and well-respected guide.

Bottom line: it was a legal trophy hunt, the type of which is endorsed internationally as a promising conservation practice, carried out on illegal territory with an illegal target. We do not yet know whether or not this was on purpose, and any statement to either side of that is just speculation. Worst-case scenario, this deserves legal investigation, with which our dentist has already stated he is more than willing to comply with.


"Be awesome to each other," says Cecil.

“Be awesome to each other,” says Cecil.

The Human Stuff

The backlash to this event has been more disgusting than the actual act. It’s perfectly reasonable to be angry that such an event could occur. It’s even reasonable if, according to Zimbabwe law, which I am not familiar with, the hunter is also liable in this case and is punished accordingly.

So it sickens me that upon his arrival home and the breaking of this news, that this man’s reputable, important, and locally run dental practice has been effectively forced to shut down due to a firestorm of media attention and armchair vigilantes. What these people fail to realize is that by attacking this man’s practice in the way they did, they’ve not only harmed him, but every employee there, as well as the community in which it resides. Does one man’s actions, which could very easily be an honest mistake whilst attempting to follow law while hunting an animal, as much as it could have been an intentional violation, warrant this type of action? Unequivocally not.

But perhaps the most terrible part of all of this is the link people fail to see between this event and the rampant cyber bullying in our country’s schools. I’ve written about bullying numerous times on this blog, because it’s an important issue in our schools. Would you like to know where children learn how to be cyber bullies? It’s from events like this, where a guy is set out to dry because he shot a lion with a longbow.

For whatever reason, this dentist from Minnesota will now be forever remembered as the guy whose life was ruined because he went on safari, not the guy who spent his life building a business that has impacted countless local families in a positive way. Of all of the people to be crucified for hunting, the internet has chosen this man, who at the very least attempted  to follow the laws in place for the benefits of the hunted animals, to make the face of their crusade against poachers and animal cruelty. Poachers are the enemy, and the Internet has taken out its rage against them on a hunter, which is different. It’s just horrible.

Finally, and I have many qualms about the media that I could spend days ranting about, but the language in some of these articles sickens the scientist in me. For good measure in their responsible reporting, CNN and others decided to throw in some biological information in their article:

“The saddest part of all is that, now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females,” Rodrigues said. “This is standard procedure for lions.”

CNN is not stupid, but it knows its audience. There is nothing sad about this. This is called nature. There are no emotions involved with nature no matter how much Pixar and Disney want there to be. Worst of all, humans did this to each other less than 800 years ago for the same reason, so I’m not sure why it’s all of a sudden relevant to this article and such a sad thing for lions to do it. It happens literally every day. Whatever sells ad impressions is what they’ll write. I digress.

Next time you see a cyber bullying incident in your school, go ahead and ask yourself how this is different. Let me use the professional lingo. Imbalance of power? Check. Is an individual a victim? Check. Is it ongoing over an extended period of time (24 hours)? Check.

Don’t wonder where our children learn to do this. Don’t wonder where they learn to spread rumors, bend truth, and collectively attack individuals who share different beliefs or ideas than them. Like every other behavior a child learns, we teach them.