Bioethics Blogs

Cecil the Lion: Can Health Care Professionals Ethically Be Sport Hunters

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

In James Patterson’s book (and now TV miniseries) Zoo, the animals have acquired an intelligence that removes their fear of humans. More specifically, the animals attack humans, driven by radio waves from technology. In character’s belief, the animals are banding together to take care of the greatest threat to their existence—us. With that perspective, I examine the social media uproar over a dentist killing Cecil the Lion.

The social media buzz started not because a man hunted a lion, but because he happened to shoot a beloved lion. Cecil was a 13-year-old lion who lived in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was a well-known tourist attraction, wore a tracking collar and was part of an Oxford University study. There are debates over whether the hunt was legal. What is legal and what is ethical are too different things. This blog is about the latter.

Cecil’s killing is buzzworthy, but he is only one of 244 lions that will be hunted this year—that’s the average number of lions hunted for trophy each year. We might not have heard of lion trophy hunting if a celebrity animal had not been shot. The other 243 did not cause a ripple in the social media universe.

Walter James Palmer is a dentist from Minnesota. He reportedly paid $50,000 to hunt a lion with a crossbow. Most hunts make about $60,000 to $120,000 with the costs of hunting license, visit, travel, and preparation of the carcass for display. Lion hunting is legal in 27-32% of the animal’s current territory and many African nations that had limits on hunting have removed them.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.