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.

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