In a way the ongoing reaction to the murder of Cecil is a real life representative example of humans’ need for an identifiable subject to emotionally relate to, discussed in our former post regarding Peter Singer’s latest book.
Singer cites several social psychology studies exposing humans’ cognitive ability to relate to one identifiable victim but much less so to many, even if many is just a few more individuals. One example of these studies is: “people were shown a photo of a child and told her name and age. They were then informed that to save her life, she needed a new, expensive drug that would cost about $300,000 to produce, and a fund was being established in an attempt to raise this sum. They were asked to donate to the fund. Another group was shown photos of eight children, given their names and ages, and told that the same sum, $300,000, was needed to produce a drug that would save all of their lives. They too were asked to donate. Those shown the single child gave more than those shown the eight children, presumably because they empathized with the individual child but were unable to empathize with the larger number of children.“
If eight children that are identifiable are too many, then what are the odds of the tens of thousands of the world lion population, or of the hundreds of billions of the industrially exploited animals?
Many activists are fighting for decades against both illegal and legal hunting, and animal extinction. They display harsh statistics over and over for years now. But none of their efforts have produced as much media attention and public outrage as the murder of one identifiable lion.
Cecil had a name and age and he was recognized and loved by many. That’s one of the reasons why his death got perhaps more global attention than any other animal ever in history, to the frustration of many animal rights activists who fight for trillions of animals whose lives are much worse than Cecil’s, despite his horrible death.
The frustration is intensified, knowing that many of the vocally appalled by the crime committed against Cecil are serial criminals themselves.