The Cecil Paradox: A Conversation With Hal Herzog


Why do millions of people rally to the cause of one dead lion, yet seem unconcerned about 10 billion live cows on their way to slaughter?

Hal Herzog is a psychologist and anthrozoologist who has studied the complex psychology of human interactions with other species for more than two decades. In his book, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals, he explains how people negotiate these kinds of real-world ethical dilemmas.

Like so many people, I was swept up in the killing of Cecil the lion. I was devastated when I heard the news. Then I began to be aware of the full parade of human irrationality on display in this situation – my own irrationality very much included. I’d like to start by asking if you have any general observations about this.

For me it was this perfect storm. The dentist managed to hit all the wrong buttons in terms of things that people find morally offensive. It just brings out these emotions and passions that people have associated with animals. And oftentimes they’re paradoxical.

What’s interesting to me is that the people that were least likely to feel that way about Cecil were the animal activists that I know.


Yes, and it made perfect sense when I started to think about it. One of my friends, Laura Wright writes a blog called The Vegan Body Project. When she first heard about Cecil, she said, “You know, I’m gonna go over to Whole Foods and I’m gonna give out fliers to everybody that’s walking out with an animal carcass in their bag to point out the irony that we kill ten billion animals a year and they’re part of that system. You have a right —> Read More