Cecil the Lion Sparks Another Big Game Hunting Debate

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By now I think most of America has seen the story of “Cecil,” the lion that was shot and killed in Zimbabwe by Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist. Other than what we’ve all seen on the news, none of us have the details of how the hunt unfolded. Therefore, neither I nor Sportsmen’s Alliance can speak to the specifics of the situation until we learn more from the investigation.

To be clear, the Sportsmen’s Alliance does not condone poaching under any circumstances. Part of protecting hunting, fishing and trapping is promoting the legal taking of fish and game as guided by sound regulations developed by skilled wildlife management professionals. We are deeply concerned about the allegations against Mr. Palmer, and if they are proven to be true, we hope that appropriate action is taken by local authorities. 

Regardless of what happened, the situation has once again drug big game hunting back into the spotlight. Although the focus has been on the killing of a specific animal, this is an opportunity to talk about the overall positive impact hunting has not only on conservation, but the economy as well.

The reality is, the worst thing you can do for a big game animal is to no longer hunt it. I realize that notion might not sit well with some, but it’s true. No animal in this country has ever gone extinct due to modern, regulated sport hunting. In fact, the opposite is true as they have instead flourished under the North American Wildlife Conservation model. It is naïve to think a “let nature take its course” approach to wildlife management could work at this time in human history, yet this is often the argument that you hear from those who oppose hunting.

The reality is, human beings are part of the circle of life and there is no more humane way to manage wildlife than through hunting. The manner in which animals die or are killed as part of “nature taking its course” is far more painful, traumatizing and cruel than any form of hunting.

Mother Nature is not pretty as some suggest. Animals don’t just grow old and then walk off to die in their sleep surrounded by loved ones. Death in the wild often means being ripped apart by a predator while struggling to escape or dying of starvation or disease. Quite often, it is slow, painful and hideous. Wildlife management guided by the science and hands of human beings has proven to be the most humane and effective way to manage populations, and nothing the other side says can dispute that.

In addition to the importance of hunting to conservation, it also provides nearly $90 billion economic impact per year in the U.S. alone. Much of that money gets plowed back into conservation efforts that not only help game animals, but all wildlife. In countries like South Africa, money derived from hunting is critically needed to support efforts to stop poaching and the uncontrolled killing of wildlife. There are dozens of other benefits to the people as well, which deserves attention itself.

This, however, is the story that needs to be told about hunting. If we do a better job of promoting our sport to the non-hunting masses, it might lessen the venomous responses we see in cases such as “Cecil.” It is our job to make sure that we provide best information available so that reasonable people can make more informed decisions about where they stand on hunting issues, instead of being guided by emotional rhetoric.