I'm writing a book about human solidarity with nonhumans. Started it in about March of this year, having intuited there was a future book on the horizon. So when Cecil the lion was shot, I paid a lot of attention. It was as if the basic thesis of the book was being played out before my eyes. Above and beyond (or perhaps below, I think I'd prefer it that way) the normal pity/compassion/outrage of animal rights rhetoric, with its long heritage from the later eighteenth century and the way white anti-slavery rhetoric worked alongside it, there was something new.
This lineage would be why the right wing sneering at Black Lives Matter, and the subsequent racist and speciesist (both amplifying one another) rhetoric by them on Twitter regarding the lives of lions mattering, is more than particularly ugly and violent. The politics of pity always involved some kind of power relationship, or as William Blake says, Pity would be no more / If we did not make somebody poor.
No. The Cecil event goes way beyond the politics of pity. It's about what Occupy called the 99%. People are so beaten down by modern life that they realize quickly that they have more in common with a lion than with a dentist.
A perverse logic of economics and (the bigger picture) ecologics (to coin a phrase, to wit, the way human economic relations operates on and within the biosphere) has driven humans and nonhumans into each others' arms.
I can't think of another moment of such spontaneous identification. It took recordings of whale sounds to convince some people to get outraged about whaling in the mid-70s. Of course the Cecil event was hugely accelerated, amplified and distorted by the internet.
But it's solidarity that explains how the internet exploded into violent shaming of hunters in general and the dentist in particular. There's no handwringing “Why oh why can't we do something?” type of moves here. It's true compassion as in suffering-with. It's expressed via shame (not necessarily so great) and in its wake is all the other kinds of previous rhetorics and identification modes. But the wavefront is solidarity with nonhumans.
Shelley's line, loved by Gandhi and King, now has another meaning: Rise like lions after slumber / In unvanquishable number ... Ye are many, they are few.