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Cecil the LionI imagine you have some thoughts about how well spent the moral outrage of seven billion people has been on Cecil the Lion.

“I do. Look, there’s some reason to believe the dentist did do something wrong. It’s not quite clear; he said he was hoodwinked by somebody else and he thought they had proper permits. And so, you know, if he did something wrong, broke the law, he should be punished. I don’t have any problem saying that. And also, I don’t have any particular love for big game hunting — I may be betraying my own liberal background but I find it kind of a repellant activity.

However, the lack of proportion in this case is astonishing.

I honestly think if the dentist went to Africa and shot an African, there’d be a lot less fuss. Instead he shot this beautiful lion… and the sentimentality combined with the mob attacks has been insane.

Of course, he was not hunting for food, he was hunting for trophies. Personally, I find myself totally unsympathetic to that, even though I can get right up to the door of it. I shoot guns because I’m very interested in self defense, and the truth is it’s incredibly fun to shoot guns…

So I can imagine that hunting is even more fun if you don’t have any scruple about killing the animal. And I’m under no illusions that my position as a non-vegetarian, as someone who eats meat and therefore delegates the killing of animals to others, is more ethical. I think the hunter who eats his kill is in a stronger moral position than I am. He’s owning the full process by which he’s arriving at his hamburger, or in this case, his venison steak…

What matters? What counts as a worse crime than another? What should one be allowed to do? And one can, as a reflective person, rank things. It’s worse to kill somebody than to beat them. It’s worse to steal one-hundred dollars than one dollar. It’s worse to kill an African human than an African lion…

If you feel the killing of Cecil is one of the biggest news stories of 2015, you’ve really got to reassess your values.”


Remarks from two self-described liberals — Sam Harris and and Yale psychologist Paul Bloom on Harris’s Waking Up podcast last week (these remarks come at the 48 minute mark in the track below).

Bloom touches on many of these themes of moral psychology in his book Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil.


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