For many Americans, the past three weeks have felt like the final straw in a year that has seen unprecedented recognition of police brutality against people of colour. Each day since the death of Sandra Bland on July 10th has heralded a new theory or an additional piece of evidence; this morning was no different, with the release by Texas police of new CCTV footage in an attempt to quash the wilder conspiracy theories about her death. Questions – very important questions – still remain, however. The inconsistencies in the case seem myriad; the trajectory from failing to signal while changing lanes to suicide in a cell block seems odd.
From the moment Bland’s untimely death hit the news, social media activists on Twitter expressed heated outrage, creating and flooding hashtag after hashtag - #JusticeforSandraBland, #SandySpeaks and of course, one that’s gotten a depressing amount of mileage in recent months, #BlackLivesMatter. As the Waller County Sheriff’s Office defensively dodged the pertinent questions such as why had Sandra Bland been taken into police custody on a minor traffic citation and how six foot tall, 175 pound woman managed to hang herself with a bin liner, momentum gathered. And then, all of a sudden, the poaching of Cecil the lion hit the headlines and within three days the focus on justice for Sandra Bland came to an abrupt halt.
What riled me about this development was the discovery that when something happens which really matters to them, Americans can universally unite. I awoke this morning to impassioned howls of fury - from many who had refrained to comment on the Bland case. There were endless photographs circulated of the magnificent felled beast, Cecil, in his prime, and several impassioned appeals to punish the despicable Dr Walter Palmer of Minnesota (nothwithstanding his protestations that he thought he was acting within the law).‘ Destroy his dental practice!’ were the cries. People queued outside to leave teddy bears and notes of indignation. Links to Palmer’s Yelp page were shared across Facebook, urging people to leave negative reviews that would impact upon his business (‘Friends, I invite you to voice your opinion about this hunter in a forum that will be impactful,’ one of the sharers commented.) There was despair and indignation, but there was also abuse: ‘I REALLY hope, Dr. Palmer, That you die in poverty under the bridge that you call home after having every tooth in your head rot out,’ wrote one Lu M of Colorado Springs.
The most controversial animal killings
The most controversial animal killings
1/6 Cincinnati Zoo worker shots and kills Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker after a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe. The incident was recorded on video and received broad international coverage and commentary, including controversy over the choice to kill Harambe. A number of primatologists and conservationists wrote later that the zoo had no other choice under the circumstances, and that it highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2/6 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
Walter James Palmer has been named by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He is now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges. The lion was protected and the subject of a decade long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in the UK. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said that two men were charged with poaching in connection to Mr Palmer
3/6 Kendall Jones hunting images
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech university student, has provoked worldwide fury after posting pictures of herself smiling next to animals she hunted, including a lion, rhinoceros, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus
4/6 Rebecca Francis hunting images
Rebecca Francis, a huntress who has killed dozens of wild animals has been sent death wishes by furious social media users after a picture showing her lying down next to a dead giraffe was circulated. Rebecca Francis has a website and Facebook page dedicated to the animals she has killed in hunts across Africa and America. Francis, a prolific hunter who has also co-hosted the television show Eye of the Hunter, regularly posts pictures of herself posing next to dead bears, giraffes, buffaloes and zebras, among other animals. She uses a bow and arrow to kill her prey
5/6 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
Copenhagen Zoo made the controversial decision to euthanise a healthy giraffe named Marius, which was later dissected and fed to lions as visitors watched. The slaughter sparked a furious backlash from social media users and zoo staff have received death threats by phone and email. Soon after the incident, Copenhagen Zoo faced an international outcry once again after four healthy lions were put down
6/6 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
A Switzerland zoo faced heavy criticism from animal rights groups, after keepers put down a healthy brown bear cub to spare it from being bullied by its dominant male father. The 360 kg male bear Misha had already killed one of his 11-week old cubs in public and was bullying the second, staff at the zoo said, because he was jealous of the attention the cubs were receiving from their mother, Masha. Both adult brown bears had been donated to Bern’s Dählhölzli zoo in 2009. Campaigners condemned staff there for not separating the cubs, who are being referred to as Baby Bear Two and Baby Bear Three, and their mother from Misha after their birth in January
Following these developments, I began to feel ill at ease – and it wasn’t just because of people like Lu M who took their animal rights activism a little too far. Twitter had been animated enough when it came to the Bland story, but it’d yet to see this kind of unity in opinion. Liberals, feminists and people of all races – especially people who had been active in the #BlackLivesMatter campaign - came down hard, while closet racists (of which there are apparently many), particularly right-wing Republicans and white supremacists chimed in apathetically, chastising the rest for making such a fuss and heavily implying that Bland must have been in the wrong. People disagreed. Differences of opinion were common. Unlike Cecil, Sandra Bland wasn’t afforded the universal support of the American people. Jimmy Kimmel, Cara Delevigne, Debra Messing, Ricky Gervais and a slew of other high-powered celebrities weren’t leaping on the Sandra Bland bandwagon quite so easily and emotionally as they were doing when Cecil was concerned.
It’s easier to get behind a lion than a human being – especially, apparently, a black human being in America. Lions don’t have centuries of racist history to carry on their regal shoulders. Lions don’t have their own thoughts and opinions, and lions don’t question police officers or claim to know their own rights. But keyboard warriors would do well to question their own reactions to Sandra, versus Cecil. The online group Anonymous has called for a day of nationwide process in response to Bland’s alleged murder (thereby disputing the autopsy’s finding of suicide), and that call inspired me. But unless we can come together in this time of hardship, the way we did so naturally when faced with an innocent animal slaughtered needlessly in Zimbabwe, then we’ll never achieve justice for the victims of an institutionally racist police force. Divided, we are conquered.Reuse content