Christine Grahame: Migrants deserve sympathy like Cecil

Cecil the lion was killed despite being tagged and named. Picture: AP
Cecil the lion was killed despite being tagged and named. Picture: AP
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Now first of all let me make it clear that I was sickened by the recent slaughter of Cecil the lion. An animal lured to its slow death by a man I would never let near my fillings if he were the only dentist on the planet and my cheeks throbbed with abscesses.

His actions have reminded us of the big bucks, sometimes the animal variety, in organised hunting and shooting of game. They remind us that some of our species aren’t in the same league as those we call “animals”.

But by killing an iconic and tagged beast with the publicity of video footage of the animal in its prime, this lion is not any old lion, it has a name, a Pride and cubs; cubs that will now be killed by his successor.

We are made aware that this trade takes place week in, week out and even that animals such as lions are “farmed” then released in fenced areas solely so that some idiot can preen his ego and adorn his Facebook mantelpiece with a “trophy”. The fact that the dentist himself is now the prey and in hiding and may be subject to criminal proceedings in Zimbabwe (but don’t hold your breath that he may be 
extradited to stand trial) is a form of justice.

But let’s just pause and reflect on this, and I say this as an animal lover and chair of the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Animal Welfare, why the rightful outrage about this lion, but none when bulletin after bulletin we see on our screens desperate migrants tearing at fence upon fence to reach what they consider the 
sanctuary and hopes of a better life in the UK as a “problem”? Where is the outrage at erecting more and more fences to hold back that “swarm”? Why is it our publicly funded BBC regurgitates the Tory/Labour mantra that migrants are bad and a threat to our so-called civilised society? Why was it that migrants clinging to the flotsam of fragile boats were to be pitied but once on dry land to be vilified?

Let’s go back to Cecil, that dark maned individual and let’s consider the images of the migrants on our screens, hooded, track-suited, depersonalised by their plight and then the story of one, interviewed by one of the “swarm” of reporters by those eerie fences.

Turns out he is a dentist fleeing from Syria and the horror and chaos there. Syria where more than 200,000 have lost their lives and 11 million their homes.

Some thoughts spring to mind. Did the UK have any part in the disintegration of Syria? Whose side are we on now? Bashar al-Assad? Are we art and part of the collapse of that state and the collapse of this man’s life? If he had faced the BBC cameras in his whites with his dentist’s gear around him or better still in a pinstriped Saville Row suit would the politicians have changed their tune? Would the media have reported differently?

Would we have seen him as we did Cecil as an individual pursued and predated and then have our eyes opened to other migrants as individuals with a horror story, with families, with lives scattered to the winds and now corralled in compounds labelled ironically “the Jungle”.

Remember both dentists; the one deserving his fate; the other abandoned to it.

Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale