Je Suis Cecil

This morning I received an interesting office wide email sent by a colleague. Someone had left a meaty item in a fridge on another floor and it had leaked bloody juices all over other people’s chilled goods. The concise mail explained the situation, confirmed the rescue of the other food and the relocation of the offending item. The email was quite humorously written, and while it didn’t warrant a response I was tempted to reply (just to the writer) ‘Je suis Cecil’.

The shooting of Cecil the lion by the American dentist Walter Palmer has caused massive furore internationally in recent days. For those who have not seen a report or picked up a newspaper, Palmer paid a handsome £35,000 for a big game hunting permit in Zimbabwe. He was assumed it was all legal and was escorted by hunting business owner Theo Bronkhorst. Bronkhorst in fact diverted from his intended killing field for reasons undetermined (at least not from the article I read) and ended up on a farm called Antoinette, which lies on the border of Hwange National Park – Cecil’s home.
Cecil had been tagged as part of a research project headed by Oxford University, and it was in fact this tag which lead to the discovery of his beheaded and skinned carcass. Palmer had initially wounded the lion with an arrow, tracked it for 40 hours and then shot it.
Cecil the Lion
Once the news leaked it seemed everyone became emotionally involved in this story. Palmer has had to close his practice and go into hiding, and Bronkhorst has ended up in court. Rightly so.
While I could quite easily rant on about how redundant I think hunting for ‘sport’ is, and jump onto the character assassination bandwagon against Palmer which gains momentum daily, what intrigues me most is the nature of the outcry.
While the world is justifiably outraged and disgusted by this act, I’m struggling slightly to understand exactly why. Is it because Cecil had a name and was thus anthropomorphised? Is it because we make a distinction in our brains between wild, farm and domesticated animals? Or do we blame Disney for giving us The Lion King – Mufasa’s death haunting generations of children since the 90’s?
Following this I have seen a few articles crop up with pictures of cows, chickens and pigs in various conditions – mostly shocking – but the cow was cute – with the caption Je suis Cecil echoing the defiant response to the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices back in January after their publication of an image of Mohammed. (Sadly I couldn’t find any pics in the public domain to use, so I made my own. Baaah)  
Je suis Cecil
While some of the animals in the images are shown in horrible conditions, obviously for maximum impact, this is not a militant campaign like the kind exposing the evils of foie gras. This is a very clever carpe diem moment that has been seized by a sharp individual or group to raise the question of how ethically we source our food. At the risk of being a broken record, the same point I made ages ago when the horse meat scandal dominated the headlines springs to mind about being aware of where and how we source our food, and of being responsible and aware of what we are actually putting in our mouths.
Yes, I am still a vegetarian and I will take every opportunity to wave my meat free flag (as if you didn’t already know) but the spotlight needs to shift onto factory farming. This continues due to the general gluttony and ignorance of the  population. Pay a visit to a farm and you will see the disgusting conditions these creatures are kept in – in the interest of commerce. It makes me sad that there is an instant outcry, however justified, when a majestic animal like a lion is needlessly killed, but when thousands of pigs have their tales removed to prevent them biting each other due to stress is considered acceptable or ignored? Our consumer lifestyle has created a beast, so it is up to us to put an end to this monstrous behaviour.
I have no problem with the meat eaters – but I think we’ve reached the ‘too much of a good thing’ stage in our consumption thereof. Meat-free Mondays should be more of a thing.
Back to hunting. This morning I also received a signature request for a petition which will be sent to President Jacob Zuma asking for the practice of canned hunting to be brought to an end in South Africa. This is a step in the right direction, and I signed it of course.
This post has digressed like an episode of the Simpsons. I promise the rant will be over soon and thank you for making it this far if you have. The bigger picture of food production needs more consideration over greed and convenience. We cannot bury our heads in the sand for much longer. Making smarter choices when we shop/eat out will get the ball rolling.
Below you’ll find a link to the petition page where if you wish to add your signature I will only encourage you.

More than just bacon