Unholy Glee

Yesterday the BBC published a report about two, or possibly three, rhino poachers who had been killed and eaten by a pride of lions in the Subaya Game Reserve, South Africa (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-44728507). Most commentators treated the matter with some levity: the poachers had got their just deserts, and there was much gleeful repetition of some of the details, like hats being found together with an abandoned rifle and an axe. I must admit to having been made uneasy by the reaction. I don’t condone poaching, and although I can see that there might be a glimmer of humour in finding those empty hats because it is the stuff of story-book and fable, it is a macabre humour at best and out of place in real life. We are talking about human beings who met a terrifying death. The fact that they were poaching an endangered species is not really the point. My guess is that the men were poor, driven by the need to feed their families in any way they could and lured by the money the traffickers in rhino horn promised. Even if they were big game hunters — the kind who go to Africa to plunder her wildlife, then pose next to their kill with sickening self-importance, as though they had done a good and brave act — even if they were such, my response would be the same. Human life is precious. We do not rejoice in death. Maybe something died alongside those men yesterday, a little more of our humanity. I hope I am wrong. Let us pray for them and for their families who face an even bleaker future now that they are gone.


6 thoughts on “Unholy Glee”

  1. Oh dear, guilty as charged I’m afraid. Having been to South Africa quite a few times, and to a number of game reserves, I have been appalled by the cruelty to elephants and rhinos by poachers. I have also been charged by a male lion whilst relatively safe in an open-topped land cruiser, so I think I know of the fear felt by those poachers.
    But sometimes people need reminding that poaching can be dangerous, and it would be far better if people stopped buying ivory and other wild animal parts used for jewellery, display or muti – Zulu for medicine. I will pray for the poachers, their families and conversion for other poachers and consumers.

  2. It seems to me that if you invade someone else’s home intending to kill them, you get what’s coming to you if they defend themselves. And that’s what happened here.

    • Thanks, but aren’t you addressing a different question from the one I deal with in my post? My post was about people gloating over the death of other people, i.e. the reaction to the event, not what caused it. If I had wanted to write about poaching or lions or sudden death in the bush, I would have done so. In this case, they are merely the occasion for my writing.

  3. I can’t rejoice in the horrible death they experienced. Any positive feelings about the animals getting revenge is something separate. Yes, poachers learned a lesson the hard way, but God forbid I should be jumping up and down about people getting killed and eaten. I felt the same way about Bin Laden, actually: there may be reasons and advantages to what happened, but I couldn’t join in the glee about the killing itself, no matter who is killed and what they did. Glad about other lives saved, sure. Refraining from celebration of someone’s death doesn’t mean I think it shouldn’t have happened. I just think life and death are solemn, sacred things. I also feel we can mourn what that person turned into and what horrors they did, even if we can’t feel grief (and in fact feel rather glad) about their demise. I didn’t burst into tears at Bin Laden’s death, but neither did I jump for joy. It’s a death.

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