If Cecil's Death Broke Your Heart, You Need To Know About These Lions
The world came together last July to mourn the death of Cecil, a well-known Zimbabwe lion who was killed by an American big game hunter. Cecil's death was so appalling for many people because of the unfair way in which he was killed: lured out of his protected home with a dead animal, he was shot when he tried to feed.
Unfortunately, thousands of lions have it even worse.
Around 7,000 lions are currently being held captive in South Africa for canned hunts, an unsportsmanlike practice where hunters purchase an animal, then have him released into a small enclosure where they can shoot him without risking him running away.
While Cecil spent his life running free in a protected nature preserve, these lions have a much more ignoble fate.
Their torture starts at just a few days old, when they're taken away from their overbred mothers and turned over to untrained volunteers to be hand-raised. During the day they're passed around to tourists to be petted, cuddled and photographed.
When their cuteness starts to wear off, they're trained to take "lion walks" with tourists, posing for pictures before being returned to their cramped, unnatural cages.
During all of this they live with no semblance of natural pride structure. As revealed in the upcoming film "Blood Lions," their cages are rarely cleaned and they're often fed spoiled meat. They're only given enough medical attention to keep them looking attractive for trophies.
As soon as they reach adulthood, they're harvested by tourist hunters, who want the thrill of a lion head on their wall without the hassle of a real hunt.
Hunters select their animal from a selection of individuals, priced according to gender, color and other features that would make them a more or less desirable mount.
The semi-tame lions are then escorted into small enclosures, where the hunter can shoot at them without worrying that they'll run away. Like Cecil, they're often baited with a pile of food and are shot when they try to feed.
Unlike Cecil, they never have a chance to run away - or live a natural life.
Cecil was an iconic symbol of Africa's wildlife, and it's little surprise that his death was condemned by the international community. But if we care about lions, we have to care about the lions in canned hunts as well: inbred, abused and shot point-blank.
At least Cecil spent his life wandering a Zimbabwe national park, finding mates and starting a family like nature intended. These lions get so much less.
To find out more, watch "Blood Lions" on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.
The views expressed here are The Dodo's and do not necessarily reflect those of MSNBC.