All over the world, people are expressing their shock and horror over the killing of Cecil, a famous lion that lived in a protected reserve in Zimbabwe. According to media reports, an American trophy hunter paid $50,000 (USD) to hunt the lion. Also according to media reports, the lion was illegally baited into leaving the protected area of the park, shot with a bow and arrow, and suffered for 40 hours until he was shot, skinned and beheaded.
We are profoundly saddened by Cecil’s death under these circumstances.
We don’t want to make this a debate about hunting in general or trophy hunting; we know advocates and opponents hold strong opinions. No matter how you feel about these activities, it appears that Cecil suffered an inhumane death caused by actions that were illegal. The AVMA’s Animal Welfare Principles state that “The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath.” The Principles also state that “Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent,” and that “Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.” It goes without saying that any activity involving animals, including hunting, should be pursued within the law. In addition, the valuable research information lost with Cecil’s death could have a long-lasting negative impact on global conservation efforts.
If the allegations regarding Cecil’s death are true, we are truly horrified and share the outrage over the circumstances of his death. We encourage the authorities to fully investigate the matter and take appropriate actions to penalize the offenders, as well as increase protection and enforcement efforts to prevent this from occurring again. But we ask that the outraged people not take out their anger on the hunter’s place of work, his coworkers and Yelp or Google review pages. In Cecil’s memory, act positively by supporting global conservation efforts. Let’s make Cecil’s impact on the future outlast the shame and horror associated with his premature death.