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From the hunter to the hunted: How social shaming puts the bull's-eye on trophy hunters

Last Updated Jul 30, 2015 at 9:47 am EDT

They pose gleefully with their kills – majestic animals like lions and giraffes, sapped of life and destined to become fodder for glory stories and wall mounts.

But big-game trophy hunters are increasingly finding themselves the hunted ones on social media.

Walter Palmer knows that all too clearly. The 55-year-old American dentist is now apparently in hiding after he was identified as the person who killed a beloved – and protected – African lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe earlier this month.

Since being outed as the man who killed the iconic animal by Zimbabwean authorities, photos of Palmer posing with animals he’s killed have been flooding social media sites, prompting a flood of backlash from everyday people to celebrities.

Some of that backlash has included death threats, and Palmer has been forced to close his dental practice in Minnesota after protesters converged at his office, leaving angry notes and stuffed animals.

On Yelp, which allows the public to review businesses, Palmer’s dental practice is getting drilled.

The page has been flooded with hundreds of angry reviews citing his proclivity for killing animals.

His practice’s Facebook page has also been deleted since the scandal unfolded.


Celebrities from the worlds of sports, politics, and entertainment, have joined the shaming parade.

Former heavyweight champion boxer Lennox Lewis put some beastly fighters to sleep during his career and he didn’t pull any punches when it came to his feelings about trophy hunting, which he called “a very sick pastime.”

Former American politician New Gingrich called for Palmer’s arrest. And a Change.org petition has been launched, calling on the U.S. government to extradite Palmer back to Zimbabwe where he faces poaching charges.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, it had nearly 7,000 signatures.

Palmer released a statement on Tuesday saying he relied on local guides in Zimbabwe to ensure the hunt was legal, and he maintained that he didn’t know Cecil was protected.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” he said.

“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”

Rex Features Ltd. do not claim any Copyright or License of the attached image Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX Shutterstock (4916062f) Walter Palmer Cecil the lion killed by American dentist Walter Palmer, Zimbabwe, Africa - 29 Jul 2015 An American dentist who killed Cecil the lion with a bow and arrow during an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe has said that he is "deeply regrets" his actions. Walter Palmer, 55, from Minnesota, allegedly paid park guides $50,000 (GBP 32,000) to hunt and kill Cecil at the Hwange National Park, not realising that the animal was a local favourite According to reports Cecil was lured away from the safety of the park before being shot with a crossbow. He was then tracked for 40 hours and shot with a rifle. Palmer then posed for a 'trophy' photo with his corpse before it was decapitated and skinned. Palmer has insisted that he believed the hunting trip was legal. The two local guides are due to appear in court today and if convicted face up to 15 years in prison.
American dentist Walter Palmer. Photo by REX Shutterstock

The Associated Press reported that Palmer has a felony record in the U.S. related to the shooting of a black bear in Wisconsin in 2006. In that case, Palmer shot the animal outside of an authorized zone and then lied about it.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2008 to one year of probation.

Palmer’s not the first hunter to face the public’s wrath.

Rebecca Francis, a former reality show contestant, raised the collective ire of animal lovers after posing with a giraffe she killed. Francis claimed it was an act of euthanasia for an elderly animal.

Comedian Ricky Gervais led the angry charge last May with the following tweet, which was retweeted almost 50,000 times.

And in 2014, L’Oreal cut ties with teen model, Axelle Despiegelaere, after she posted a hunting photo on her Facebook page.


Whether legal or not, the growing distaste for trophy hunting should have hunters thinking twice about posting photos of themselves posing with lifeless animals.

If not, the bully’s-eye could end up on them – with their careers and reputations as the casualties.