Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cecil the Lion

I started my day by reading an article about the awful case of Cecil the Lion, a much-loved Zimbabwean male lion who was lured from a conservation area and killed, for sport, by an American dentist wielding a bow and arrow, who paid £40,000 for the privilege. Cecil didn't die immediately and was pursued for forty hours before being shot, decapitated and skinned. For sport. The world is up in arms about it, and chat show host, Jimmy Kimmel got so emotional about the subject that he very nearly broke down...

But is it time to call the hypocrisy police? Every year millions of animals are killed so that we can have tasty food in our bellies. Because eating meat is actually no longer something we need to do to stay alive, technically, our only reason for eating it is that it's nice. We eat for sport, I suppose.

...Of course we can argue long and hard that animals who are bred for meat are killed humanely and probably wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for the trade that ultimately kills them. Kimmel was, of course, quick to point out that the situation would have been far more acceptable had it been hungry local people killing the animal because they needed to eat rather than because they wanted an adrenaline rush. To an extent, I agree, particularly as I'm not sure there's a great deal of nutritious vegetarian food on offer in Zimbabwe!

...but WOULD we actually accept a lion being killed for food? A beautiful lion with an enormous flowing mane? Of course we wouldn't. And so a catalogue of double standards reveals itself. We admonish the Spanish for bull fighting, yet we'll happily eat cow. We condemn posh people for fox hunting, yet begrudgingly support badger culling. We eat pig, but are horrified when someone tries to feed us horse. Some of us are okay eating any sort of meat whatsoever, as long as it doesn't actually resemble the animal from whence it came. Scratch the surface and there are a thousand moral dilemmas going on. And yet because most of us are agreed that we wouldn't eat a lion, we feel we can come down like a tonne of moral bricks on someone who kills one for sport.

Surely the bottom line is that animals are animals, regardless of how rare or protected they are? Pigs are probably more intelligent than lions, they're just not as majestic or beautiful. Cows who line up to be slaughtered in an abattoir may not suffer pain as they are killed, but they do smell blood and panic whilst they wait. Death is death whatever form it takes.

I'm not a militant vegetarian. I genuinely don't care what other people eat. Some of my best friends are meat eaters! I went to a bull fight once and wasn't hugely shocked. I drink milk and acknowledge that if everyone else turned veggie, but still drank milk, we'd still have huge issues in terms of what we'd do with the boy calfs. I wear leather shoes. I occasionally eat gelatine in sweets. I'm as much a mass of contradictions as the next man. Ultimately I'm a vegetarian because I don't like the notion of animals being killed for food and don't much trust the meat industry not to poison me. Let's not forget that the first cases of HIV probably came as a result of humans eating a bush meat...

So whereas I find the case of Cecil the Lion incredibly distressing, I'm just not sure we ought to be starting a witch hunt. Hand on heart, are the rest of us really so irreproachable?

I feel similarly about Lord Sewel, who seems to have got himself into all sorts of trouble for snorting cocaine and having all sorts of kinky sex. I think there's a passage in the bible which says something along the lines of "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." We all got our knickers in a twist about the concept of bugging telephones, yet it's apparently okay to feed our lust for the salacious by secretly filming someone? We all do things in the bedroom that would make us feel incredibly embarrassed in the cold light of day and yet we're capable of ripping someone else apart for the mistakes they make in the heat of the moment. And, if we're honest, many people take drugs. In fact, 38% of young British people admit to having taken an illegal substance of some sort. If everyone who'd taken illegal substances in their life suddenly lost their jobs, then the infrastructure of our country would collapse.

One of the great tragedies of modern life is that we expect our politicians to behave in ways only the most boring people in society do. This only has just one outcome: boring politicians. The interesting ones are always forced into resigning. Do I know anything about Sewel? No. Do I know whether he was any good as a politician? No. Does anyone else? No. So why do we care what he does in the bedroom?

There. I've bored myself now...

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