© Steve Bromberg

The trophy room of a big game hunter.


The Business of Killing:


“Ain’t it wild!”


 By Steve Bromberg


It’s a fact. Humans are hunters and hunters love killing. Sometimes they love killing more than they love bragging about it. Killing gives them a sense of power, control, superiority. And killing a powerful animal truly sharpens that pleasure. What a rush it is to brag about that big cat or the five-ton elephant you just dropped in the bush! GPS tracked and located from the air, the animal never stood a chance.


The smell of death lingers on the savannah. Big Game hunting is a sight to behold. It’s the ultimate expression of the hunter’s feelings of alienation and inadequacy and his frustration with interpersonal relationships. Now, with the discovery of the illegal killing of Zimbabwe’s beloved lion Cecil, “sport” killing has become a searing hot topic.


On Facebook, Dr. Walter Palmer posted pictures of his hunt, but instead of awe and adulation, his update was greeted with anger and revulsion. And when people found out how this seedy butchery went down, the news went nuclear. Cecil’s slaughter went viral when people found out that Dr. Palmer paid “legal guides” fifty-five grand to lure poor Cecil out of his protected habitat in Hwange National Park to “legally” kill him. Outrage grew when people learned that Dr. Palmer merely wounded Cecil with his illegal crossbow and then tracked him for over forty hours causing the animal incredible suffering.


When they finally caught up with Cecil, they wasted him with a bullet. Then they decapitated Cecil and tried to destroy his tracking collar. Ironically, Dr. Palmer’s vanity and that pesky tracking collar were his undoing. Had he not boasted about his kill on Facebook, had he not tried to destroy the collar, few people would have been aware of the planned addition to his “trophy room.” Few people would have even cared. In a matter of days though, Cecil’s brutal murder went viral. Everyone’s Facebook feed featured a photo of Dr. Palmer’s shit-eating grin as he propped up Cecil’s head for the compulsory money shot. I shared it several times, myself.


Think about it… One person with 600 friends shares a feed from someone with 600 friends who shares the post with 600 friends − in a matter of hours, lots of folks had the opportunity to view Dr. Palmer’s handiwork. Soon, news of this despicable killing saturated the media. Exposing the doctor for his unspeakable act wouldn’t have been possible without the internet. Now, Dr. Palmer has closed his business and he’s on the lam. And unfortunately for him, he won’t be able to hang Cecil’s head on his trophy wall.


And isn’t that the other half to all this killing? Retiring to the sanctity of the trophy room, puffing yourself up like a bandy rooster and crow- crow- crowing about your conquest? You can ceremoniously snip off the end of your El Rey Del Mundo cigar, light it up, take a draw and look that dead animal in her lifeless eyes and proclaim, “Look at me! Look at what I did to you!” This, unfortunately, is our legacy.


We kill defenseless animals to combat our true feelings of powerlessness; the fact we’re willing to devote an entire room to display our victims demonstrates how eager we are to showcase our ability to become monsters. And make no mistake about that, we have become our own worst enemy. We don’t know how to behave anymore. We’re like that spoiled, petulant kid in the candy store, only this time with an AK47 in his hand.


Look around you. Animals poached, beaten, abused and hunted to near extinction. For what? I have walked into a trophy room. The sight is grim. What, in the name of Mother Nature, are we doing to her? A man’s trophy room is a striking example of our amazing ability to destroy all that is around us. A hundred heads ring the room as if they are anxiously awaiting us. A hundred kills. A hundred assassinations. To sit among the dead gives one pause. Who are we really? If only the animals could talk. Stare into their glass eyes. Touch them, you can feel their cold, lifeless bodies… fur that feels manufactured.

The Trophy Room

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All photos © Steve Bromberg, used with permission.


The trophy room used to be reserved for a few well-heeled folks to spin tales to all their friends about Africa and that bull elephant whose head now adorns the wall. The big game hunter became some kind of a hero, someone who was larger than life − almost god-like. They’d hold court in their trophy room, sip a rare brandy, smoke expensive cigars and spin incredible tales of mystery, danger and suspense. What’s happened now is that technology has given everyone the chance to have the narcotic feeling of the kill. It’s all been accelerated. The speed at which these hunts take place is mind-boggling. The people assigned to protect these animals can’t keep up. Money talks, and there’s a lot of it in the killing game.


There are ranches advertised on the net guaranteeing a kill. It’s become dispassionate, calculated, mapped out. It’s blood lust to the highest bidder. Getting to and from the kill sites is only a matter of transportation. AK47s are w the gun of choice for poachers and it seems that now the lines have become somewhat blurred between what is legal and what is not. Some would argue they are one in the same. There is no mystery, anymore. No suspense. No Danger. No real “thrill of the kill.” From the onset, the outcome is certain. An animal will die and money will change hands. The fear here is we are on that slippery slope of no return. Killing feeds that basic instinct in all of us and we just can’t stop our own bad behavior.


The internet will still be used to brag to all who would listen about the kill. Hunters won’t stop showing off and good, decent people won’t stop being outraged. In fact, if you go on line now you can google hundreds of big game hunters. The lines they give you that “we are actually conservationists” and “our dollars and the meat from our kills help the locals” are total bullshit. There is more killing than there is conserving and most of the dollars wind up in the pockets of men of questionable character. So pick your favorite trophy room and get comfortable. There are literally hundreds of animals to look at. This will be our legacy as the Human Race. Last species standing.


Steve Bromberg, a photographer and writer, is currently traveling and exploring Vietnam on a motorbike and his artist statement is simple, “Life always seems to surprise me.”