I suspect almost everybody I know with few exceptions would take one look at this image and express all manner of disgust. My initial reaction was that in a moral, ethical and natural world, killer and killed would be reversed: noble beast would have his majestic paw on the fat man's gargantuan and very dead belly.
Of course when I speak of "everybody I know," I'm for the most part referring to urbane, highly educated, relatively intellectual liberals that inhabit one or the other American and Canadian coasts (and parts of the Gulf Coast) and the isolated pockets of blue in between. I speak of people that are likely believe that "trophy hunting" and "obesity" are repugnant in and of themselves. Lay a double whammy like this on them and they're likely to vomit, literally and/or figuratively.
Would we have the same reaction if this were a black and white photo from the fifties with a portly Papa Hemingway astride his kill? Or a couple of tall, loin-clothed natives with spears and nose rings? Probably not. However, while a historical compare/contrast analysis of the current state of trophy hunting and endangered species turns up some alarming data, like the Change.org petition this photo came from that states "there is no justifying the slaughter of such incredible animals for sport and vanity." Indeed. How anyone could disagree with that statement is beyond me, especially given the facts that, "Last year, more than a thousand rhinos were poached in South Africa, elephant populations have plummeted 66% in just five years, and the export of lion 'trophies' has increased ten-fold--hunters bringing home animals' heads and bodies to stuff and mount."
But what makes this image so profoundly disgusting is the killer. The idea that a human being in such miserable condition can take down a wild animal for "sport and vanity" is criminal - fuel to the fire, as they say. But what if the individual was disabled, terminally ill, in a wheelchair, and legally killing a lion was his "wish" from the "make a wish" foundation? Would I be more tolerant in that case? Maybe. So, after thinking about why I found this image as disgusting as images of death-drunk Sunni's on a beheading rampage, I started to question the whole idea of "tolerance," not of the trophy hunter's murder, but of the trophy hunter himself.
I'm no Adonis. Recently an estranged Treble Makers fan called me a "fat, gullible piece of shit," and I have seen pictures from the Roasters that make me cringe. Many if not most of my friends are overweight, and some have struggled with it their entire lives. I grew up in a family where fat was far worse than drunkenness or chronic flatulence. Mom was a card carrying anorexic, so eating was a sort of necessary evil. Still, I've managed to get over my foodless upbringing with great success. Now, I don't think I know any men quite as large as Mr. Lionkiller, but some of my female friends are. I'm sure my initial judgement of these individuals was prejudiced and harsh, and it wasn't until after I had gotten to know them that their size became as natural a characteristic as the color of their eyes. On one ski trip with a dear, departed friend, I had to climb up the mountain to help her rise from where she had fallen because she had gotten too big to manage it herself. We've all seen the statistics. Obesity is a national epidemic, bought on by a culture of excess and, put simply "too much food and not enough exercise." (An article in the National Institute of Health also points the finger at 'microorganisms, epigenetics, increasing maternal age, greater fecundity among people with higher adiposity, assortative mating, sleep debt, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceutical iatrogenesis, reduction in variability of ambient temperatures, and intrauterine and intergenerational effects.") Oooohkay!
So when I see an image of someone that clearly disrespects his own body take the life of The King of The Jungle, well, not to put too fine a point on it but the cards are stacked against the fellow. We all know it wasn't a fair fight, and Mr. Lionkiller's life was never in danger, regardless of his girth. That's certainly a strike against Mr. Lionkiller. It's hard to tell if the other person in the image is a woman or a man. Maybe it's his loving wife. Maybe it's the guide that helped run the creature into a state of exhaustion with a fleet of jeeps so the big man could take a shot at it from his fox hole, or more likely an elevated "lion stand" like the one's used by deer hunters. In other words, it's pretty easy based on the available evidence to label Mr. Lionkiller as a "fat piece of shit" (hard to assess his gullibility from the picture) and be done with him. But doing so might be just as unfair as his completely legal and sanctioned murder of the lion. (Perhaps this particular lion was a notorious pest, making off the the local tribesmen's daughters and such.)
Miss Frost, a transgender librarian in John Irving's In One Person says, "My dear boy, don't judge me until you get to know me." I don't know Mr. Lionkiller, but I'm inclined to flush him down the toilet without as much as a handshake because I am intolerant of what he's done and, worse yet, how he looks. Then again there are places in the world where his girth is admired. So in the end it is I who can't see beyond the edge of my own liberal coastal cultural blinders when I label Mr. Lionkiller as the lowest form of pond scum to inhabit the planet.
I'm cool with that.