Written for Acculturated
May 23rd, 2017
It seems to be an odd, yet regularly occurring phenomenon, that when the worst people in the world are feeling particularly cruel they decide to comment on Buzzfeed articles. Need proof for my pet theory? Just go read the comment section for this story on the death of a big game hunter.
Theunis Botha was an experienced hunter leading a hunt when his group was suddenly charged by a group of elephants. To avoid being killed, the group opened fire. An elephant close to Botha was hit and fell on top of him, killing him. His tragic demise is now being celebrated as “karma” for all the animal lives he’s taken over the years, a flawed stance to take for a few reasons.
While granola munching environmental “activists” have expressed disgust over Botha’s role as a hunter, it’s been pointed out by a few people actually involved in the conservation movement that Botha was not about to kill of any endangered species. Actually, in leading the hunt he was taking part in a Zimbabwe National Park effort to do just the opposite. The organization allows a few hunts every year, the logic of which is that having wealthy individuals or groups pay exceptionally large fees to hunt a specified number of animals brings in more money for the local community, which prevents community members from having to turn to poaching to support themselves.
In other words, allow a small number of elephants to be hunted each year to prevent a larger number from being killed and in the process allow the elephant population numbers to replenish. If you find the idea objectionable I’d just like to point you to the International Union for Conservation of Nature which signed off on the idea. IUCN even released a rather lengthy report explaining its reasons for doing so, in which it’s stated that the union “Supports the philosophy and practice that on state, communal and privately-owned land in southern Africa the sustainable and well-managed consumptive use of wildlife makes a contribution to biodiversity conservation,” and “accepts that well-managed recreational hunting has a role in the managed sustainable consumptive use of wildlife populations.” It’s worth noting that the ICUN isn’t some cleverly named hunting group with a secret agenda, but a conservation group so dedicated to protecting the environment they once attempted to kick the indigenous Maasai people out of the Serengeti National Park.
So, to reiterate: Botha broke no laws and was actually doing his part to help save the animals. The monster!
The celebratory reactions to Botha’s death are just the latest example of changing social attitudes regarding the uniqueness of human life in the ecosphere. Early in the twentieth century G.K. Chesterton wrote, “There is a healthy and an unhealthy love of animals: and the nearest definition of the difference is that the unhealthy love of animals is serious. I am quite prepared to love a rhinoceros, with reasonable precautions: he is, doubtless, a delightful father to the young rhinoceroses. But I will not promise not to laugh at a rhinoceros… I will not worship an animal. That is, I will not take an animal quite seriously: and I know why. Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.”
Chesterton’s words are now more meaningful than ever, as we’ve seen greater cries of anger over the killing or death of animals such as Harambe the Gorilla or Cecil the Lion than the suffering of our fellow man. We’ve sacrificed possibly the single most important thing in the world: an appreciation of the sanctity of human life. I hope the irony isn’t lost on anyone that those cheering Botha’s passing are almost assuredly opposed to capital punishment. Death as a consequence of killing a human is beyond the pale, but for killing an animal it is evidently barely penance enough.
Homo Sapiens, with all our flaws, are still better than animals, and our lives are always more valuable. When presented with the choice between saving the world’s most despicable person and the world’s cutest animal I will invariably pick the human. Flaws can be corrected and replaced, as all humans have something in them no animal on the face of the earth does: the potential for greatness. Even if Botha was truly terrible, in reveling over the news of his death you delight in the death of his potential. And I can think of few things worth mourning more than that.