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Palmer-Lion

$55000 – that is an average Canadian’s annual salary. It is also the amount more or less, that my colleague, Yves, spent on an expedition to the Everest base camp in 2013 and contracted HAPE (high altitude pulmonary oedema) because he was too eager to get up there and didn’t spend enough time acclimatizing his system to the 18000 ft environment.

HAPE, a deadly affliction which floods the lungs with fluid and literally asphyxiates to death, can begin at 8000 ft. Yves would have succumbed to it had it not been for a stroke of blind luck – a chopper had just dropped off some well-healed Australian adrenaline junkies who were attempting the summit and the pilot was just about to leave. Yves was airlifted to the nearest Kathmandu hospital and he is still with us today.

If you have a large disposable income, you probably have a brain that secretes excessive amounts of dopamine – it’s feel-good, gratification-craving, thrill-seeking neurotransmitter. Yves’ family has both –  the dough and the dough-pamine. And somehow, bank balance is directly related to the brain’s dopamine reserves, which in turn points, as the crow flies, to stupidity.

$55000 is also the amount that Minnesota-based dentist, Walter Palmer, paid to kill a lion. Palmer is (rather, was, since the future prospects of his dental practice seem bleak now) an avid bow & arrow trophy hunter whose living room and den walls are studded with 43 stuffed heads that include a rhino, an elk, a California bighorn (mountain sheep that can weigh up to 300 lbs), a leopard,  Kodiak bear, wild boar, caribou and moose. The only thing missing on this one-man killing machine’s walls was a magnificent lion’s head and Palmer was aching to fix that.

He had been saving up the dough he was raking in from his implants, veneers, root canals and bridges. An American dentist does not have to break out into a sweat getting together $55000 and so he gathered the stash with ease. Then one thing led to another and soon he was off to the African savannah.

Dr. Wally was of course successful. When you have all the technology, the back-up, the enablers, the outfitters, the Safari operators and rich American redneck card-carrying NRA members – when you have all that to support you, a lion has no idea what it is up against. It is a wonder an African lion, once the king of the jungle, can still call it’s brood a ‘pride’ and not a ‘pathos’.

Every year around 650 lions are trophy hunted in Africa, 60% of them by Americans, almost all of whom are white and there has never been a hullabaloo over trophy hunting. Hunters from affluent nations are an important source of revenue and corruption for these hick nations and hunting lions is allowed, supposedly for funding the conservation-related projects that these nations claim to be carrying out. Imagine that – killing to conserve.

The same day that Cecil was killed, the hunting outfit which ran the trip, Bushman Safaris, a member of the NRA, posted on its Facebook page, “ We as hunters do far more for conservation of our wildlife than anti-hunters who probably have never even seen or been around our wildlife. Thank you and be proud to be hunters or understanding what we do.” Really?

Even back home, in North America or in Europe, hunting endangered animals like lions and importing their heads for trophy is still not banned. It is never going to be. In America, this obvious oxymoron is due to an organisation that literally runs right-wing America – the National Rifle Association (NRA). If you are a politician in the US, the NRA can make or break you. Al Gore, the Democratic Presidential candidate in the 2000 US Presidential elections learned this the hard way – he ran up against the NRA.

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You and I wouldn’t be discussing this and going ‘tsk! tsk!’, had the lion that Dr Palmer killed not been Cecil, a much loved celebrity fixture of the Hwange National Park. Cecil was known to be a ‘friendly’ lion who loved to walk up close to tourists and let them take pics of him, almost as if he was a pet and all that was left was to teach him some tricks. At least that is the impression that the media’s portrayals of Cecil have tried to convey so far.

According to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), the hunt began on the night of July 6. Palmer and his two enablers stole out of their lodge in the dead of the night, got in their jeep and drove off into the bush, a dead goat tied to the jeep’s tailgate, a practice widely used and legal in Africa, even though using a lure is seen in the western hunting community as unethical since it does not afford the prey an even chance to flee.

In Canada, using a lure is illegal and a hunter can face a fine of upto $1000 and the confiscation of his hunting permit if he is caught using a lure. It is probably the same in the US. Twisted logic, brought on by that typically Christian mindset of trying to pass off sinful actions and deliberate choices as good and fair, very much akin to the reasoning behind ‘signature hits’ by US drones, on targets that could well turn out to be innocent collateral.

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After the slaughter of Cecil, the narrative became hazy. Palmer claims that he and his pals simply drove off the banned area of the park premises and ran into the lion way beyond, out in open country, where it was legal to hunt. The ZCTF claims Cecil never left the park and that Palmer and his crew lured Cecil out of the park and then killed him.

Sensing trouble, Palmer flew back to the US where his relief was short-lived. The brickbats have turned into a barrage…..

“I hope that the downward spiral into poverty is a swift one for you, Walter Palmer”

“Rest in peace, beautiful Cecil.  As for his murderer, may there be a special corner of hell waiting.”

“He is just a serial killer. No other difference. He kills for pleasure, to get a trophy.”

“Dr. Palmer, be grateful I live in New York and not Minnesota.”

“Take him down, take away his way of life, boycott his business, he is an evil coward.”

“Dr. Palmer, you could have used your money to help people who need dental services and cannot afford them.  Instead, you go to another country and kill one their most beloved animals.  You have brought shame to your family, your profession, and the United States of America.”

“You went from the top of the food chain to something we would want to scrape off from the bottom of our shoe. Enjoy social & professional purgatory.”

May you be given the same treatment and disrespect and pain and torture that you have inflicted upon the innocent animals that you have murdered, you horrific, horrific POS of a so-called human being. I hope this haunts you forever.“

“Dear Mr. Walter, Please share my condolences with your wife for having married such a gutless, empty piece of shit.  Please share my condolences with your kids for having such a soulless f&%^tard for a father.  Please feel free to clean your rifle while both you and it are loaded.  And please think of that lion when your business fails because no one wants to patronize a cowardly scumbag. Michael“

Facing almost total and violent condemnation, even bodily harm, Dr. Walter Palmer has shut down his practice and gone into hiding.

The hunter is now the hunted.

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Palmer’s forté is archery. I never knew how popular it is as a sport and in hunting, until I migrated to the west. I also had no idea how powerful a bow and arrow is until I went on a jaunt with my neighbor, Noel, who has been a archery enthusiast and avid hunter all his life. Noel owns a $900 compound bow made of composite materials, which bears no resemblance to the sort of bow you saw Robin Hood use. Still, at $900, Noel’s bow is very basic stuff, probably nothing near the model that Dr Palmer uses. Throw in a pack of 24 carbon fibre arrows and that will be another $2400.

A regular bow delivers an arrow at 300 feet per second, slightly more than half the speed of sound, and it can be devastating at 40-50 yards. Noel and I were perched on a tree-stand when a deer walked into range. Noel’s arrow went right through the thick fleshy part where the neck meets the shoulder blades of the animal, severing the carotid artery clean and exiting from the opposite end. It buried itself in the ground 50 feet beyond, with such force that only it’s tail fins remained visible above ground.

The deer looked startled at first, like ‘what the f–k was that?’ And then it crumpled to the ground. We had to skin and string it up quickly since too much internal bleeding spoils the taste of the venison. We didn’t stop to think how the deer must have felt. Hunting isn’t for the squeamish, I can tell you that.

Killing a large beast like a lion or a bear with bow and arrow is particularly challenging. You are at close proximity to the beast, maybe just seconds away from grievous bodily harm. If you don’t have back-up, in the form of a companion with a heavy calibre rifle, you stand the chance of being mauled to death if you miss, since reloading a bow takes time.

Do you think Noel and I were being inhuman? Probably, but that is what hunting is all about. It is a sport. Noel and I had limited means, so we drove ourselves down to the closest designated patch in the Laurentians and let loose. Dr Palmer is rich, so he crossed an ocean, that is the only difference. I feel like I am no better a human being than Dr Palmer.

If Noel and I had found a Kodiak or a brown bear sauntering within range, would we have let it be, simply because it looked ‘photogenic and friendly’ and came up close for what we imagined was a photo-op? No, we wouldn’t. If it was in season and we happened to have a quota slip, we would let the bugger have it, simple.

Likewise, the other day, an angler caught a huge 30-lb bass right in front of my eyes, at the St Anne pier. Should he have dropped it back into the St Lawrence just because it was huge and swishing its tail this way and that in fury, looking cute? For that matter, should we be standing around at a mutton stall, watching a goat being slaughtered, simply because we have invited guests over for dinner?

Or is it okay to kill for food and not appropriate to kill for fun? Exactly what the f–k difference does it make to the poor four-legged bastard, why he get’s it between the eyes?

That is what Noel and me and Dr. Palmer and that angler (and the rest of the human race) are – predators. It is our way of showing the rest of the animal kingdom who the boss is, wildlife conservation be damned.

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Instead of trophy hunting, governments today should encourage `viewing tourism`. Watching black bears turning over rocks and scooping up crabs on an Alaskan beach, or the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of witnessing the awe-inspiring power of a grizzly feeding on sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay or Whales flipping and frolicking at Gaspé – these are magical experiences that remain with a tourist forever.

Here is an eloquent 2014 piece from commentator, Judith Lavoie, on how the Canadian government favors hunting over viewing tourism……

“…. In 2012, the Center for Responsible Travel found that bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest generated 12 times more in visitor spending than bear hunting and 11 times more in direct revenue for the BC government than bear hunting by guide outfitters—$7.3 million for bear viewing and $660,500 for non-resident and resident hunting combined. As for jobs, bear-viewing companies in the Great Bear Rainforest are estimated to seasonally employ 510 people while guide outfitters generate only 11 jobs.

Despite such statistics and a growing antipathy to allowing well-heeled hunters to slaughter top predators for the sake of a rug on the floor or head on the wall (a 2013 poll found 88 per cent of BC residents opposed trophy hunting, up from 73 per cent in 2008), the government seems determined to expand the hunt.“

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There is another, more sinister, player in this sordid tale – the oil and gas industry. An excellent piece by Jamie Tarabay (link below) in Aljazeera exposes a nexus between the oil and gas industry and the NRA. It appears that they have common interests, for the NRA – battling inclusion of big game in endangered animals lists and for the oil giants – fighting to be permitted to conduct exploration inside prohibited, delicate ecosystems.

The partnership is baffling, given that oil exploration drives big game away and renders the land less amenable to hunting. But that may not be a problem – there are enough open spaces for both to pool in their lobbying machines and thrive. Besides, the two groups are both Republican, both fighting against excessive legislation which might harm their business interests.

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From the minute Dr. Walter Palmer was born, he had a Copperhead Compound Bow and broadhead arrows, with his name on it.

From the minute Cecil the lovable lion was born, he had it coming, plain and simple.

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Suggested reading:

Trophy hunting and the NRA`s role in the slaughter

Big oil and big guns – Not so strange bedfellows

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