Several weeks ago a lion named Cecil was illegally lured out of his protected national park in Zimbabwe. He was shot with a bow and arrow by American dentist, Walter Palmer. The arrow only wounded Cecil, leaving the lion to suffer for close to two days before he was tracked down and shot.
To the horror of Palmer’s hunting guides, they discovered that Cecil was fitted with a GPS collar (whoops). It turns out that the lion was part of a study funded by Oxford University as well as a beloved attraction for safari-goers.
The hunters attempted to destroy the collar. Cecil’s body was skinned and his head was taken as a trophy; Dr. Palmer paid $54,000 for the privilege.
Around the same time as Cecil’s death, the anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos implicating Planned Parenthood in the illegal sales of aborted fetal tissue for medical research.
What does Cecil the lion have to do with these videos? Nothing, but conservative media would like you to think otherwise.
Journalists and political commentators have been openly attacking defenders of Cecil the lion. These shamings have come with the gross generalization that anyone upset by Cecil’s death never gave a second thought to the Planned Parenthood videos.
Rush Limbaugh asked, "How in the world can you get teary-eyed and misty-eyed and sad, and at the same time participate in burying what's happening at Planned Parenthood?"
Ben Shapiro of Breitbart News Network tweeted a picture of a human fetus with the caption, “As a thought experiment, leftists, try to imagine this is a lion.”
Fox Radio Host Todd Starnes tweeted, "Is Planned Parenthood chopping up the dead lion's body for parts? How much are they charging for a paw?"
As Christians, should we care about Cecil the lion? Should we care about the Planned Parenthood videos? Should we care about the Christians and children being butchered by ISIS in the Middle East? Should we care about the African children that are enslaved and dying in diamond and mineral mines?
Feel free to check “yes to all” because at no point did God require that our compassion be exclusive to only certain issues. As Christians, our compassion should know no limits. This is because God’s love and grace is eternal and boundless and His spirit is in us, with us, and all around us.
William Wilberforce was a great example of someone who used this inexhaustible kindness to change the world.
Wilberforce was an 18th century politician and Christian who lead the movement to abolish slavery in England. This pursuit was his life’s work, yet he still found the time to establish the very first animal welfare organization: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Just because the Bible states that humans are of greater importance than animals that doesn’t mean that the suffering of animals is irrelevant. God cares about all suffering on earth, including the suffering of animals.
In the very beginning in the garden, God called mankind to be stewards of His creatures and creation (Genesis 1:26-28). This was not a command to subjugate; it was a passing of responsibility to care for creation as He does.
In Leviticus and Deuteronomy we see that God created the Sabbath not just for people, but also for animals so that they could rest. In Deuteronomy and Exodus God tells us that if we come across a donkey or ox that has fallen under its load, we are commanded to help eliminate its suffering (even if it belongs to our enemy).
In Proverbs 12:10 we are told: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”
In the New Testament Jesus tells us not to worry (Matthew 6:25-27, Luke 12:6-7). He teaches this by reminding us of what great care God provides for animals. Jesus points out that not one sparrow is forgotten by God.
So what does this mean for Cecil the lion and all of the countless animals whose heads end up adorning study walls?
From a Biblical perspective hunting can be deemed ethical because God gave mankind permission to eat meat. For hunting to be morally justifiable, however, the animal must not be made to suffer and the hunted animal must be used and not wasted.
Trophy hunting is done solely for sport. The act does not serve a purpose and the animal is not used to feed or clothe anyone.
Many trophy hunters defend their practice by claiming that the money spent on hunts in Africa supports animal conservation and helps local communities.
Last year a hunter from Texas paid $350,000 for a permit to kill a black rhinoceros, an animal on the critically endangered list. The hunter claimed that all of the money went towards anti-poaching efforts in Namibia, although no proof of this was ever released.
According to The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, African hunting companies contribute less than 3% of their revenue to communities in hunting areas.
The hunting of animals in Africa causes much more than animal suffering. Illegal poaching in Africa feeds the global illegal wildlife trade, valued at an estimated $19 billion.
Poaching results in the violent deaths of innocent park rangers and villagers. The illegal ivory trade fuels terrorism as well as the supply of drugs and weapons in war-torn countries throughout Africa.
So care about Cecil the lion. Care about the Planned Parenthood videos. Care about whatever issues God has put on your heart: there’s plenty of room in there for all of it.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!