Matt Evans: Cecil The Lion Was Not More Important Than People


Now that the Confederate Battle Flag has been eradicated, the internet outrage machine has moved onto the case of a hunter from Minnesota who killed a lion in Zimbabwe.

There are a few common themes I’m hearing:

  • Trophy hunting and big hunting is stupid/evil/wrong/unmanly/whatever
  • This guy got in trouble in the US for killing a bear, so he is clearly evil
  • This guy broke the law in Zimbabwe
  • This guy deserves to have his business and/or life ruined
  • This guy deserves to be killed and/or tortured

I’m sure you’ve heard other things. Let’s take these one at a time.

Response 1: If you don’t like trophy hunting, don’t do it.

I’m glad that when I moved to this state, some great friends taught me how to hunt. I’ve only ever bothered applying for antlerless tags, because the meat is what interests me. But I have no problem with people who hunt for trophies. I think I understand some of the appeal. I’ve spent hours in some miserable conditions trying to outsmart an animal. The people who say there is no sport and no challenge involved in trophy hunting invariably haven’t tried it. You don’t need to listen to them because they have no idea what they are talking about.

Additionally, I’m a big fan of the late Colonel Jeff Cooper. I’ve read some of his books, and he talks about his hunts in Africa quite fondly, and in great detail. Col Cooper was a man who had spent a fair bit of time being hunted by armed men. He never the less found great challenge, danger, and exhilaration in hunting African game, which he attempted to explain in his writings. Again, most people who are virulently critical of hunting or trophy hunting have neither tried it nor been in human vs. human combat, and so I’m inclined to discount their feelings on the topic.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Imbeciles occasionally claim that a hunt is not a fair fight unless the animal is also holding a rifle. Of course this is ridiculous; in a contest between a man and a lion, a man has no chance without tremendous skill, courage, and weaponry.[/mks_pullquote]

Imbeciles occasionally claim that a hunt is not a fair fight unless the animal is also holding a rifle. Of course this is ridiculous; in a contest between a man and a lion, a man has no chance without tremendous skill, courage, and weaponry.

It seems that in the specific case of the Minnesota dentist, the guy ended up shooting at a “baited” lion, that is, a lion that had been lured out of hiding with a bait animal. You may think that’s not very sporting. I might agree with you, but it’s actually not germane to how angry people are.

However, I would like to point out that the guy took the shot with a bow, at night. I think it takes enormous brass balls to start a fight with a lion even if you are inside a tank in the daytime. When was the last time you saw a lion? Do you understand how devastatingly powerful, large, and fast they are? Do you realize that lions still kill more humans per year than sharks do?

Bottom line: some people like trophy hunting, and contrary to what you might think, it often requires skill and courage that most hunting critics do not possess. I’m nervous around raccoons in cages. This guy was hunting an apex predator on its turf, with a bow. In the dark.

You don’t have to like it, but if it’s not your animal that’s being hunted, you don’t get a say. I’m sure you also have hobbies that I think are stupid; how about we show our fellow man some grace?

Response 2: I don’t lose a lot of sleep when I hear someone has violated an animal or hunting law

Have you bothered looking at state and federal laws about animals? Sometimes, they are ridiculous.

For instance, if a bald eagle builds a nest on your property, you cannot move it. If you go on vacation and come back and there is an eagle nest in your truck, you no longer own a truck – you have a shiny eagle nest that if you touch, you’ve committed a federal crime – possibly a felony.

Also, when hunting in difficult conditions, you can make a judgment call incorrectly. One example of this is how deer hunting laws work in ND. For those unfamiliar with deer hunting in ND, you get a tag for a certain kind of deer. You aren’t allowed to take an animal that doesn’t match the kind of tag you were issued. One way deer tags are differentiated is if the animal has antlers or not.

Thankfully, tiny nub antlers on males don’t count as “antlers”, otherwise, you’d never get close enough to an animal to reliably determine its gender before it ran off.
When looking at a deer’s head through a scope, it’s very possible to think you’re looking at an antlerless deer – because you don’t see any antlers. However, occasionally, you’ve actually got a male deer with smaller antlers that are totally hidden by the animal’s ears. When you take a shot, you think you’re shooting an antlerless deer. When you come up upon the animal, you can see that it had small antlers after all.

If this happens to you, you’ve broken the law in North Dakota.

Because some of the laws are inflexibly bad, and because things happen when you’re out in the field, I don’t automatically fault someone for being found on the wrong side of animal protection laws.

Response 3: Zimbabwe is a joke

This is one of my favorite complaints – people who are saying that the guy broke the law in Zimbabwe or that he should be extradited back to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is a worldwide embarrassment. The government of Zimbabwe is the picture of despotic racist corruption and ineptitude. Before the current racist regime took power, the country was the region’s bread basket. President Mugabe has instituted a policy of killing and displacing white land owners, and handing their farms over to his cronies. Those farms have become mismanaged wastelands, and in only a few short years, Zimbabwe has become a net food importer. Mugabe is on everyone’s bad guy list for some pretty good reasons. It’s no secret that he has used his position to personally enrich himself while his nation continues to descend into chaos.

So it’s hilarious when people suddenly want to treat the government of Zimbabwe like some sort of relevant or respectable entity.

Contrary to all of the fury that Americans seem to have about this dead lion, actual real residents of Zimbabwe seem to be more concerned with lions eating humans (the correct perspective) than humans killing lions. I’ve read that the monetary fine that Zimbabwe wants to assess against this guy is around $20,000 USD.

In other words, as long as the Mugabe government can get some more western cash, they don’t actually care, and so near as I can tell, neither do most residents of Zimbabwe.

Response 4: I disagree, but I cannot stop you

This is an interesting one. I’m a firm believer in market pressure bringing about changes that society wants. If society wants to band together to shun this guy and not offer him business, that’s society’s prerogative.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″] The government of Zimbabwe is the picture of despotic racist corruption and ineptitude.[/mks_pullquote]

On the other hand, society doesn’t appear to want to actually do anything positive for anyone. They’re not adopting lions. They’re not finding better jobs for hunting guides.

They want revenge on this guy.

Response 5: People who think people and animals equally valuable are wrong and evil.

People have strong feelings about (some) animals. I understand that. What these people don’t seem to understand is that they are emotions. They are not rational.

There are two standards of ethics that I think are appropriate for this conversation:


Claiming that people and animals are equivalent or nearly equivalent is a blasphemous insult to God. If you hold any animal to be equivalent (or higher) to any human, you profane God.
Scripture is clear, over and over. We were made in God’s image. We were delegated dominion over the whole of Earth and all non-human creatures. This is not an abusive or exploitative dominion; it is a stewardship role that we are to take. However, there can be no confusion: we are God’s finest creation. No animal can compare. Jesus sacrificed himself solely for the salvation of

Humans. We know how God feels about us based on His words and because of the actions of His Son.

The US government

The US government was formed by men to protect the pre-existing rights of men. That is its purpose. Anything it does which isn’t that is something it shouldn’t be doing.

Here is the preamble of the US constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Who? People.

For whom? Ourselves.

When conservatives talk about getting rid of ObamaCare or getting rid of the Federal Department of Education, this is the argument they use: the Constitution doesn’t authorize those things, therefore, the Federal government shouldn’t do those things.

I agree. So let’s make sure we apply that argument consistently. There should be no federal laws that purport to protect the rights of animals. People are the only entities with rights; the entirety of the law must concern itself solely with the protection of rights of people.

Nothing in the constitution nor the Declaration of Independence talks about the rights of animals. Even if animals have or should have some kind of rights, the government we have is not constitutionally allowed to protect those (hypothetical) rights. Animals, properly considered, must be the property of some human or group of humans. Any other legal treatment should currently be found unconstitutional.

Finally, then, we’ve established that humans and animals are not on equal footing, either before God or before the US constitution. Humans are unambiguously superior.
So even if this man committed the most heinous act of intentional evil against the lion, the idea that he should receive equal treatment is intellectually bankrupt. It’s a false conclusion because it rests on a false premise.

The lion certainly wouldn’t have treated the man as well as the man treated the lion. The entire premise that a man has some obligation to not harm a creature that is more than happy to harm a man already concedes that men are superior to animals. It is a logical contradiction to demand that men treat animals better than animals treat men, but to then simultaneously claim that this guy should be killed in the same (or worse) way that the lion was killed.

The people who say this man should be murdered or tortured are dangerous. No matter how much you like animals, you shouldn’t feel comfortable around people who say things like this. These are people who will let their feelings carry them to the point of condemning a man to death. History is filled with occasions where mobs of people worked themselves into a frenzy and got someone killed unjustly. The people clamoring for harm to come to this dentist are those people. Don’t be them, and don’t fall for their foolishness.