The Lion, The Dentist, and The Market

By now most of us have heard about Cecil the Lion, The protected, beloved lion with a black mane in Zimbabwe who was killed by a trophy hunting dentist from Minnesota.


The 13-year-old lion was a star attraction at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, out of which the hunters lured him with a carcass, and he wore a collar by which scientists at the University of Oxford had been tracking him since 2008. Cecil’s slaughter was the ire of many on social media, myself included. My beef, as it has been since I can remember, had to do with trophy hunting in general. I have always found it repulsive. When I worked at a photo lab, I developed photos for doctors from their “hunting” trips which were usually canned hunts. I have very strong opinions about such hunts. It is a personal opinion though like we all have.

The attack on those who were outspoken about Cecil the Lion were terrible. I witnessed plenty of shaming by others who accused us lion lovers of being distracted or apathetic to other issues that dealt with human animals.

For example, a headline from The Blaze:

Sometimes It’s Just Easier To Care About Dead Lions Than Dead People”


I do agree, however, if you are outraged by the killing of Cecil but continue to advocate for the killing and subjugation of others, then you have some issues and inconsistencies to work out.

Yes, there are a whole lot of animal lovers out there who do not advocate killing babies. So to imply that Cecil lovers care not about aggression committed on others is perceived as an attack. I love animals, always have. I love babies and people too. I am more outraged by the violence committed by the state and supported by the state sympathizers.

This story does bring up an interesting and complex topic – Animal Rights – especially as it relates to the philosophy of liberty, property rights, and free market. I don’t think this issue should be diminished. Everyone has their niche, their interests, their issues, and having compassion for animals does not make one an evil animal sympathizer who opposes all of humanity. The manner in which humans treat animals is quite telling about humanity.


That aside, there were many reasons people were disturbed by this incident including the accusation of poaching. I recently saw an article that said due to a trophy hunting ban, baby elephants are now being sold to China to compensate for the loss of income. I’m not sure if that is true, but the point being made is trophy hunting supports the local economy.

The solutions I have seen mentioned so far are either to continue with the status quo, despite the fact that more people are finding it morally unacceptable or (what sadly often arises as a “solution”) to create more laws! Yes, that will do it. Laws will fix everything. These so called solutions lack vision, common sense, and creativity.

Cecil’s story brings up issues that can be applied to many other areas of our lives and provides an opportunity to look through the lens of voluntaryism and free market solutions.

Consider this…perhaps trophy hunting is just becoming less acceptable. Mr. Dentist Man and Cecil the Lion became the poster children for the anti trophy hunting, animal rights, crowd. What could be a solution? Perhaps replacing the practices of trophy hunting and poaching with more acceptable alternatives that will provide economic support greater than the killing and dismembering of these sought after exotics.

Here is one example of a market response:

After Killing of Cecil the Lion, Delta Joins Airline Ban on Game Trophies


Dr. Palmer’s practice was inundated with what were termed “hate” calls, emails, and social media comments.

People protested outside of his business forcing him to shut down, close his social media accounts, and go into hiding. Wouldn’t it be great if protesting the government’s horrendous practices yielded the same results?


I came across an article from PERC that I thought offered some great solutions to supporting economies that rely on trophy hunts and poaching where these practices are becoming less desirable or socially unacceptable. Although there are many other factors such as property rights and government corruption,that exacerbate the issue, there are alternatives that can be implemented based on the current status. After all, there is more than one way to skin a cat.


Life After Poaching

In Brazil, some of the country’s most notorious wildlife poachers have abandoned their illegal trade and joined conservation organizations to preserve the very animals they once exploited. The turnaround was not necessarily inspired by some spiritual revelation, but rather by the long arm of the law.

A flourishing international market in exotic pets made the illegal trapping of wildlife a profitable business. Trappers spent years in the wild acquiring extensive knowledge about Spix’s and hyacinth macaws, while at the same time ravaging these wild populations of brilliantly colored parrots.

In more recent years, laws against trafficking in endangered species have tightened, and enforcement has become a reality, not an empty threat. When finally apprehended and sentenced, some of the poachers were looking at years in a 10-by10-foot cell with three other men. While it might appear that parrot populations would be safer with the poachers behind bars, a vast store of wildlife knowledge and skills would be lost. Charles Munn, a senior biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, thought he saw a better solution for the poachers and for the parrots.

Released on parole, the reformed trappers are employed by Munn to assist in finding populations of rare birds, often in highly inaccessible areas. The men must weigh and measure the birds, record the data, band the birds, and release them back into the wild. Their expertise has proven invaluable to scientists working to save endangered populations.

Money for the workers’ salaries comes from photographers and filmmakers eager to record the birds, as well as from eco-tourists who pay handsomely for guided tours to sites where they can see the birds in the wild. As these poachers have halted their illegal trapping and put their knowledge to work in the service of conservation, there is new hope that wild parrots will again thrive in the Brazilian jungle.

Article here
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