ReshamwalaIn a world where overzealous law enforcement officers murder people based on the color of their skin and vengeful states send people to the gallows based on their beliefs, it was the heartless killing of a lion by an American big game hunter that laid bare the jarring realization that life is cheap – both of man and beast.

Cecil, an iconic lion with a handsome black mane, was killed by a dentist from the US in Zimbabwe a few days ago. The lion, which was fitted with a tracking device, apparently took 40 hours to die after it was shot with an arrow.

It was tracked, shot, skinned and beheaded, with the trophy hunter paying the local authorities $50,000 for the privilege. The gruesome killing of this magnificent animal drew condemnation on social media from across the world, forcing the dentist to shut his practice and go into hiding. He also had to close down his social media pages and website after they were flooded with harsh comments.

A media scrum is camped outside his home, shattering his idyllic suburban existence. Described as a skilled archer, the hunter can be seen in various images online with other animals that he has killed in his hunting jaunts. Of course, the usual trolls quickly rose to his defense, accusing his detractors of picking on him and ignoring the millions of cattle killed for food every day.

A cow is no different from a lion, they argue. It’s like saying that Cecil deserved to die because he too had killed many other animals in his 13-year lifespan. But what these people are failing to understand is that cattle are slaughtered for food (the fact that they should be treated kindly and killed humanely is a different issue).

After all, we humans are omnivores, and are designed to eat meat, just like carnivorous predators like lions. There are also no issues if animals are killed to save lives (man-eaters, for instance) or the environment (invasive species) or to protect public health and crops (vermin and other pests). But killing for sport is beyond the pale and reeks of narcissism. It’s a sadistic pursuit that benefits no one except the ego of the hunter. It’s bloodlust, pure and simple.

By Shakir Reshamwala