Lions and cows and dogs, oh my!

Cecil the Lion, as he was known, was a lion who lived in Zimbabwe. You’ve probably seen the media storm and public outrage this week about his murder. A wealthy American paid to hunt down Cecil—at night, by luring him out of a preserve—and shoot him with a crossbow.

a lion similar to Cecil

It was nothing but a cowardly act by a small-minded trophy hunter, hell-bent on proving his sense of worth by killing others. The man—a dentist from Minnesota—as a complete sociopath and waste of space. But I digress.

What I learned from the frenzy this week is that it pays to have a name. Cecil was a lion who’d been photographed by tourists for years (he was 12 or 13). He was GPS-collared and was part of an Oxford University study. But he was no different from many other lions that wealthy westerners (usually Americans) pay to kill. Six hundred lions are killed in trophy hunts every year, according to National Geographic.

Cecil sparked public outcry because he was well-known. In the same way we mourn for a celebrity’s death, but not the random people who also die.

For most people, the lion is a majestic creature. King of the jungle. We don’t associate them with food or clothing. That’s another thing Cecil had going for him. People around the world have issued hate mail and death threats to Cecil’s killer, and vigils and protests have sprung up at the man’s business.

Most of the people disgusted with Cecil’s death likely also eat and wear other animals. It’s a disconnect. Melanie Joy addresses this topic in-depth in her book, Why we Love Dogs, Eat pigs, and Wear Cows. This phenomenon (of loving some animals and eating others) she calls carnism. I encourage you to read the book and see how people compartmentalize and justify this discrepancy.

It’s okay to mourn for Cecil. His death was a tragedy. His pride is in jeopardy, and his cubs will likely be killed by competing lions. But we need to also mourn for the millions of dogs and cats who are euthanized each year because they have no homes. And for the billions of farmed animals whose lives are brutal and short. They are all as precious as Cecil and as deserving of life.

We can’t stop evil people from hunting (although signing the petition to ask Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits or the petition to include lions on the endangered species list would help). But we can adopt dogs and cats and never buy from breeders. And we can choose to not eat animals.

If you’re not already, please choose veg. For the countless animals just like Cecil, who are worthy of our admiration and who want to live.

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Fashion saves the birds

You might sometimes think that fashion has gone to the birds, but in the 1920s, it actually saved a few species.

You see, in the late 1800s, large, ornate hats were all the rage. Adorned with lace and pearls and feathers, some even had entire bird nests or cages incorporated into them! And a Victorian lady never left the house without a hat.

plumed hat

Hunters descended on the Florida Everglades in search of spoonbills, flamingos, herons, and egrets. These birds were favored for their plumes so they were killed by the millions. Conservationists tried to stop the massacre (around this time a few of them formed the National Audubon Society), but still the demand grew.

Eventually, feathers were worth more than double their weight in gold! That meant it was more lucrative (and easier) to kill birds than to pan for gold. In a time when a month’s rent was $10, the plumes of four birds would fetch $32.

birds shot for their feathers

Hunters shot every adult bird they could find, leaving orphaned chicks and unhatched eggs to die. Two generations of birds were wiped out because of a fashion trend.

Even after hunting was outlawed, the slaughter continued. One of the country’s first game wardens, Guy Bradley, was hired to patrol southern Florida and prevent poaching. He was murdered by a hunter while protecting the Everglades. Two other men–a game warden and a deputy sheriff–were killed soon after.

Egret

It seemed like nothing could save the birds and end the senseless bloodshed of human and animal life.

Then, the Jazz Age hit and flappers abandoned large hats for bobbed hair and smaller hats or headbands. As the demand for feathered hats diminished, bird populations began to recover.

bob cut

Perhaps the flappers didn’t choose a new style because they thought of the birds, but the shift in sartorial trends made a huge impact on animals. All it took was for people not to buy feathered hats. It’s a simple strategy that we can do today: decrease the demand to stop questionable practices.

Animal ingredients are in many articles of clothing. When you shop, you can look out for (and avoid buying) products containing fur, leather, wool, feathers, silk, coral, horns or bone.

Every time we buy something we’re voting with our dollars. Industries thrive or wither away because of consumer choices. That’s a powerful thing.

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