I join the world in outrage at the grisly death of Cecil the Lion. (It doesn’t help matters that the big cat’s name sounds like he’s a character in a children’s book or Disney cartoon.) Is there anything more off-putting than a rich western doctor who flies to other parts of the world to pay large sums of money and kill beautiful animals? These guys are like those fools who ride around on their Harley Davidsons rattling the windows of every house within half a mile: nobody thinks your exhaust is cool except you. Same goes for the fools who hang animal heads on their walls. As regards our beloved Cecil, Jimmy Kimmel said it best:
Now that I’ve joined the chorus of disgust at dentist James Palmer, it’s time to go off script.
I am reminded of the infamous football player Michael Vick who became a pariah several years ago for engaging in dog fighting, a similarly reprehensible exercise in pathetically misdirected machismo. But rather than pile on Vick, philosopher, professor and animal rights activist Gary Francione used the occasion to turn the spotlight on the rest of us in a provocative op-ed in which he opined that We’re all Michael Vick. To be sure, Francione’s point wasn’t that we all engage in dog fighting. Rather, it was that we all inflict harm, even fatal harm, on other sentient creatures because of the pleasure we derive, directly or indirectly, from that harm. One person enjoys watching dogs fight, another person enjoys eating a hamburger or eating an omelette.
Needless to say, neither the cow standing in dung in a crowded feedlot nor the battery caged hen enjoys a quality of life anywhere as good as Cecil’s was up until those last forty hours. But all these animals suffer because of the pleasure, direct or indirect, that humans derive from it. And last I checked, neither majesty or beauty, nor cuteness are moral criteria.
So if we’re all Michael Vick, we’re also all, to some degree, James Palmer.