The hunter has become the hunted.
After the government of Zimbabwe announced it is investigating a Murrysville physician for a possibly illegal lion hunt in April, it didn’t take long for outraged animal lovers to stalk Jan C. Seski on social media. At the same time, a popular hashtag stitching together such conversation — #lionslivesmatter — is generating a controversy of its own.
“Well I hope you watch your entire family get hit by a bus,” posted a Facebook user, Peter Correia, to a page devoted to publicly shaming Dr. Seski, a gynecologic oncologist and surgeon.
“I would love to mount your head on a wall and use it as a (bleeping) dart board,” posted another.
There have been hundreds, if not thousands of such responses on social media and online forums since the news broke over the weekend. Paving the way for such vitriolic statements were an earlier round last week, following a report that Cecil, a beloved 13-year-old African lion, had been illegally lured off protected land in Zimbabwe and killed.
The hunter in that case, Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer, has closed his practice and vanished from public sight amid death threats from animal lovers. A petitionsite.org petition to have him extradited to Zimbabwe had more than 2,600 signatures as of late Monday afternoon. Mr. Palmer could face an extradition request from officials in Zimbabwe, who have signaled a request to pursue one.
Officials investigating Dr. Seski’s hunt near the Hwange National Park, however, have not charged him with any wrongdoing.
Their focus has been on his safari guide Headman Sibanda, who also worked with Mr. Palmer.
The public focus is on Dr. Seski, though. A “Shame Dr. Jan Seski” page was created and had more than 1,500 members by Monday afternoon. The addresses of his home and office were posted, as well as their telephone numbers.
A protest at Dr. Seski’s office in Oakland has been organized for Wednesday evening.
After someone called Margie Anne posted “let us take the moral and legal high ground... and refrain from any and all discussion of taking violent action,” others quickly jumped in to compare him to Jerry Sandusky and Bill Cosby. “Name and Shame, always,” wrote Kate Sullivan.
Altough #lionslivesmatter became an international trending topic, some have been offended by its similarity to #blacklivesmatter.
“Naturally, we empathize with the death of this lion and don’t find it to be a humane act,” said Senque Little-Poole, a recent graduate of Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy and member of Teen_Bloc, which advocates for education equity and is affiliated with A+ Schools. “But our position is more around the fact that black lives matter more... it’s not comparable to #lionslivesmatter.”
Alleah Rose, another member of the group, who will be a senior at Barack Obama Academy, posted a video to the group’s @teen_bloc Twitter feed, asking how others felt about the hashtag similarity. “When will #BlackLivesMatter as much as ”LionsLivesMatter?
Media creator Elon James White responded with “When America can see the humanity of Black & Brown as opposed to seeing criminality and their own fear.”
In a separate Tweet, Mr. White noted “Watching @thecyclemsnbc & they’ve referred to Cecil as Beautiful + beloved over and over. When we’re murdered are we beautiful or beloved?”
News that there is a new push for legislation that would make it more difficult for trophy hunters to bring back parts of endangered species has been applauded by many, but Pittsburgh seminarian and author C. Matthew Hawkins noted on his Twitter feed @postblackhist, “For a century, we called for laws for transparency in police departments, but you kill one lion....”
As many on social media have noted, Black lives vs. Lions lives isn’t an either/or scenario.
Still, Alleah said “As people who are organizing around Black rights, it’s really shocking to see people so passionate about punishing this dentist who killed the lion, but there doesn’t seem to be this kind of passion around seeking justice for victims of police brutality.”
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.