The alleged unlawful killing of two lions by two separate American doctors has caused an international outcry and demands for extradition to Zimbabwe for prosecution. (here and here). However, one American woman is using the controversies to taunt animal lovers and apparently drive up traffic on her Facebook site. Sabrina Corgatelli is believed to come from Boise, Idaho and is reportedly a university accountant at Idaho State University who also runs a clothing company called Racks and Ridges. She teased those objecting to the illegal hunts by saying “To all the haters. Stay tuned, you’re gonna have so much more to be pissed off about.” She then posted various photos from the “trip of a lifetime” posing with the corpses of a giraffe, warthog, kudu and impala during a trip to South Africa. To be sure to ignite those grieving over the death of Cecil the Lion, Corgatelli posted a series of pictures with such notes as “All you haters, This is for you!! Have a great day, cuz I know I will!!’
There is no indication that the killings by Corgatelli were illegal. However, the postings have deepened the debate over trophy hunts in Africa and other countries. What is most interesting in this public debate is the total disconnect in how both sides view the experience. Frankly, as a lifelong hiker, I journey great distances to see animals in the wild and could not imagine shooting them and posing with their dead bodies. Yet, this precisely the “beauty” that people like Corgatelli refer to in such “trips of a lifetime.” After shooting a large African antelope called a kudu, she wrote “Yesterday, day 1 an amazing day!!! Got my beautiful beautiful Kudu!! It was my #1 want on my list and I got him on the first day!!! Loving it there!!” Likewise, after killing a giraffe, she wrote “Such an amazing animal!! I couldn’t be any happier!! My emotion after getting him was a feeling I will never forget!!!”
Those postings leaves animal advocates and many environmentalists seething at the notion that one sees such an “amazing animal” and then extracts joy from killing it. After killing a huge warthog, Corgatelli rejoiced in killing “one of Africa’s icons.”
I am truly fascinated by the cultural and emotive divergence in such stories. Many hunters are in fact committed environmentalists and love and respect nature. The current debate has not seriously raised questions over deer, duck, and other common hunting game which are plentiful. It is focused on “big game.” Moreover, places like South Africa make a huge amount of money on eco-tourism, particularly photo safaris. These countries risk a backlash if they are also hosting people who want the joy of killing the very same animals. Notably, giraffe hunts are allowed for trophies despite the fact that the giraffe population has been reportedly falling. A package for wealthy hunters allows them to kill multiple animals for $5,400 while the giraffe carries a ‘trophy fee’ of $2,600 by itself.
Corgatelli has become the target of outrage but her postings have also generated more than 7,000 “likes.” In response to those leaving irate messages, she posted a biblical reference from Genesis 9:3 in which God tells Isaac: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” It is not clear if she ate warthog and the hundreds of pounds of meat that she killed or gave the meat to locals.
When actively seeking such notoriety, there is also a possible backlash at a university for an employee. Idaho is a big hunting state so the backlash is likely to be far less than at many other universities. Some people have posted demands that she be fired. As I have argued in the past, I do not believe that it is appropriate for universities to take action. Corgatelli has free speech rights and what she is doing appears perfectly legal. We have a disagreement for what is fun. Where some of us see the beauty in watching animals in the wild and leaving them in pristine locations, others like Corgatelli long to kill those animals. We disagree but that is no reason to seek to punish Corgatelli because she is open about his passion for big game hunting or her desire to participate in the international debate as a hunter advocate. I certainly believe that it is inappropriate for a university to chill such speech and punish those with different values. Ironically, the taunts of Corgatelli likely embarrass most hunters and work to the advantage of animal activists calling for new laws barring such trophy hunts in Africa.
For my part, I am still in Yosemite hiking with the kids in some of the most beautiful locations in the world. I would be thrilled to see a mountain lion today and enjoy not just watching it but leaving it in this wonderful place. Indeed, knowledge that it is still up in these mountains is part of my “trip of a lifetime.”