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Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office

This week the nation is seething over the murder of  Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park by American dentist named Walter James Palmer. Palmer used bait to lure Cecil out of the park, then shot him with a bow and arrow mortally wounding him. Hunters found Cecil later, still alive and killed and beheaded him. Palmer paid $55,000 for his macho privilege.

Palmers’ bloodlust is just the latest exercise in expensive animal sadism to hit the news. Last year a woman posing with a lion she killed provoked internet outrage. In 2012 the King of Spain enjoyed killing an elephant (to the horror of his subject) and the year before CEO of Godaddy.com Bob Parsons videotaped his murder of an elephant. Nice.

In 2006, Country and Western musician Troy Lee Gentry killed a penned pet bear named Cubby on videotape to appear the tough guy. Music critic Peter Grumbine asked if  Cubby had “rolled on his back expecting his usual belly rub that followed his afternoon nap” before the
martharosenbergkilling. Others called Gentry a “sad pantywaist” who “shoots caged animals.”

Some try to defend trophy hunting, canned hunting and killing exotic animals as producing money that goes to the conservation of other animals–but most (including hunters who eat what they kill) think it is sick, sick, sick.

There are some laws against the warped acts of big game hunters like Palmer, but groups like Safari Club International (SCI) still flourish.  And some of the world’s top leaders are members.

Few realize that President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and the late Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. were proud members of  SCI and pleaded with the Botswana government to keep trophy lion hunts available, for trophy hunters like them. There were reports of lions that Bush and Quayle personally killed in Africa but they remain unconfirmed.

Safari Club International offers a “Bears of the World” award, a kind of National Geographic for the bloodthirsty, in which hunters have to kill four of the world’s eight bear species which include imperiled polar bears. In 2006, SCI defeated an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the House of Representatives that would have banned the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada.

In an attempt to humanize its image, SCI has run programs like Sportsmen Against Hunger and Sportsmen Against Cancer hoping someone will eat the meat the “hunters” don’t want.

Safari Club International also has Disabled Hunter, Sensory Safari and Safari Wish programs to extend the fun of killing to the disadvantaged. On it web site, SCI showed how the Safari Wish program enabled a spina bifida patient to kill a young doe from his wheelchair at a Florida hunt club. The young man missed two hogs eating at the feeder but succeeded in shooting a greyhound-sized doe because “the Hunt Club suspended the deer harvest rules for his hunt” SCI wrote breathlessly. Did someone hold the deer for him while he shot it as is done with blind “sportsmen”?

At the risk of stating the obvious, such “sport” or “hunting” is a mental illness.

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Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

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