Cecil was a lion. And therein lies the rub, says Veganuary.

Cecil the lion was killed earlier this week and, when news of his death broke, social media erupted. There has been a mass outpouring of grief and anger, and rightly so. But have we stopped to ask ourselves why his death seems to matter so much more than any other?

Only last week, 150 pilot whales were ambushed and slaughtered in the name of tradition in Denmark’s Faroe Islands. Animal rights groups and activists took to social media, but overwhelmingly the public stayed quiet. 150 versus one. Yet it is Cecil who has captured the minds and fingertips of the world.

“Cecil had a name, and the importance of that cannot be underestimated”, said Jane Land, Co-Founder of Veganuary. “This makes him a someone, not a something. We mourn him because his life had a perceived value. It is much easier for us to empathise and identify with an animal with a name. We imagine personality, and use terms like ‘gone too soon’ or ‘loss of life’. The nameless, however, do not generate that level of compassion.”

He had a name (2)

Who are these nameless then? Whales and other creatures of the sea?

“Yes, absolutely”, said Land. “They are killed in such quantities, for our consumption and use, that it is impossible to calculate an exact figure. But there are also those who live on land: the farmed animals. A farmed animal gets a number, rather than a name. But each cow is an individual… Every pig and chicken is a Cecil. But in order to eat them we cannot hold them in the same regard as a lion. ”

Veganuary is calling on its social media followers to recognise the hypocrisy in the response to Cecil’s death. Because if you mourn for him, then surely you must recognise that other animals also deserve to live. The man who killed Cecil paid US$50,000 to end his life. When it is the life of a chicken or pig, we pay as little as £5.00.

“There’s a missing link in our consciousness when it comes to animals”, said Land. “We value the lives of some so highly, yet others end up on our plates. Through Veganuary we hope to encourage people to make the connection; to recognise that all animals have a right to life. For 31 days, every January, we enable people to step out of their comfort zones and try vegan. Let’s hope that many of them in January 2016 might be inspired to take part because of Cecil.”

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Veganuary is the world's largest vegan movement, inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year.