We’ve heard some people say that the widespread shock and anger, including PETA’s, over the execution of Cecil the lion is “a little bit crazy.”
But wouldn’t it be far crazier if people weren’t outraged?
Cecil was a healthy lion, the patriarch and defender of a family of dozens of cubs. Walter Palmer and his hunting party lured Cecil out of a national park, blinded him with a spotlight, shot him with a high-powered crossbow and left him to suffer for 40 hours with a steel arrow in his body before shooting him with a gun and having him beheaded and skinned — all just so Palmer could hang a lion’s head on his wall.
Should people just shrug off this atrocity? Would it be better to mutter “what a shame” and turn our collective consciousness back to the latest celebrity gossip? I don’t think so.
Like many others, I was speaking metaphorically when I called for Palmer to be given a punishment equal in degree to the one he inflicted on Cecil. What all of us at PETA hope is that he gets counseling for the hideous perversion of “thrill” killing and that he gives up his wretched hobby.
The righteous indignation that so many are feeling over Cecil’s killing can awaken empathy for all species, including our own. Let’s have compassion for both animals and human beings.
No one has to step over a beggar to feed a stray dog. And when we choose to assist with any good cause, bravo.
That’s why PETA speaks out for — and works to stop the suffering of — all animals, including the dogs and cats in our own backyard. Unfortunately, there has been much misinformation spread about our work.
PETA operates a small shelter — our only one — at our Sam Simon Center headquarters in Norfolk, Va. It’s a shelter of last resort for animals who are suffering beyond hope, whose desperate guardians can’t afford euthanasia at a veterinary clinic or who have been rejected by shelters that are more concerned with appealing euthanasia statistics than with alleviating suffering.
We help animals like the emaciated, flea-infested kitten a good Samaritan found on the side of the road with eyes matted shut, covered in maggots and suffering from a severe upper respiratory infection.
We end the agony of dogs like Blackjack and Boscoe, who were kept chained and who continually scratched and shook their heads from what appeared to be chronic ear infections but were really cancerous tumors deep inside their ear canals.
We’re there for animals like Beignet, an elderly, immobile, tumor-ridden dog we helped peacefully pass with his guardian at his side.
We’ve also found excellent homes for many animals and transferred others to open-door, high-traffic shelters for adoption.
Our mobile spay/neuter clinics have sterilized more than 120,000 animals at low to no cost to their guardians, preventing innumerable other animals from being born into homelessness and suffering.
Our fieldworkers are on call 24/7 and go out every day to provide neglected, abandoned and abused dogs and cats with doghouses, straw bedding, flea and flystrike prevention, food, water, emergency veterinary care and more.
Should we stop helping these animals because chickens are being scalded alive in slaughterhouses and children in India go to bed hungry? Should veterinarians give up their work because there are humans out there who can’t afford to see a doctor?
Should art teachers spend their time doing “more important things” like trying to find a cure for cancer? Of course not.
We all have a role to play in helping others and alleviating suffering.
When we all bring our compassion to the table, the world can only become a kinder, better place.
Ingrid Newkirk is the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; www.PETA.org.