With the news that the senseless hunting continues, I feel compelled to reply to the letter you sent your patients attempting to explain your role in the killing of Cecil. My response comes not only out of anguish over Cecil; it's written on behalf of the many who never had a name or a news story devoted to them, but whose fates are just as undeserved. We can do something to reduce the suffering.
First, your letter. Particularly, your defense:
"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt."
The heartbreak over Cecil's death has little to do with the fact that he was a local favorite. I had never heard of Cecil before you "took" him, and it's not like I would've preferred that you'd maimed and killed a lesser-known lion. The anger and disbelief comes from the abject disregard you seem to have for the value of life and lack of concern for the suffering of another.
Nor does it explain away the confusion - in fact, it makes it worse - to read you've been a "lifelong hunter." Trophy hunting is not sport. There's no agreed-upon set of rules or even voluntary participation from both sides. What you do is kill - destroy someone, not out of self-defense or hunger, but simply for the thrill of it, and then smugly brag about your "achievement" with photos and footage of the carnage. How can someone feel so accomplished winning a fight that was rigged and dishonorable from the get-go?
The reports are that you have slipped into hiding. Your livelihood is gone, and life as you know it has changed, possibly forever. Now you get to experience a vague sense of what it is to be hunted. The only difference is, in your case, this "hunt" is not unfair. It's a direct result of your actions and your arrogance. You came to this place proudly and voluntarily.
I hope your former patients - or anyone who is outraged by your ethics - will think of your recklessness and act thoughtfully instead of thoughtlessly. I hope they remember the elephants and rhinos who face much the same fate - hunted by methods often more gruesome - and support efforts to stop it. And I hope that as we mourn Cecil, we're moved to reduce the cruelty on our own soil: For factory farmed animals, it's not simply 40 hours of torture before slaughter, but an entire lifetime of suffering. We're not likely to become a nation of herbivores any time soon, but we can be mindful about our choices and actively avoid suppliers whose practices have been exposed for cruelty. It's not perfect, but it's a step away from brutality, a step toward compassion and a more humane normal.
Walter Palmer, perhaps there is a reason you don't discuss hunting with your patients. Maybe it's not just that it's an "emotionally charged" subject or that it's "divisive." Consider, instead, that inflicting needless suffering and loss of life is simply unforgivable.