Anti-hunting protestors and sympathetic media outlets tried to make an Italian lion hunter the next Walter Palmer. The veterinarian took a legal lion in Tanzania, but when his trophy photos went on social media someone recognized him and began spreading news of his activities. Rather than lie down and die like many protestors wished — even demanded — the Italian is waging legal war on his attackers, suing those that made violent threats against him and the media members that pushed the story.
Luciano Ponzetto runs a vet clinic in Turin, a city of nearly a million in the northwest corner of Italy. He was in Tanzania recently on a lion hunt organized by the Safari Club International Italian Chapter when he bagged a male. Celebratory pictures were taken, eventually making their way to Facebook. Someone recognized Ponzetto in the photos last week and began spreading the word to activists. Ponzetto was suddenly appearing before the court of public opinion, and judgment was swift and severe.
You can guess the rest of the courtroom drama: a trial by fury, a jury of clueless peers, and a death sentence passed without a chance of appeal. Like the Minnesota dentist, protestors turned out en masse at Ponzetto’s clinic. Animals Rights Front activists appeared with signs, protesting overnight and into the next day at one point. But unlike Palmer, who went into hiding after his lion harvest, Ponzetto refused to be threatened with violence for his legal taking of a Big Five animal.
“We will try and take [action] against these people and the media who wrote it without considering whether or not the story was in the public interest,” a spokesman for Ponzetto told Europe’s The Local.
Among the usual comments from the anti-hunting public — labeling Ponzetto as a murderer, calling for his death, etc. — came calls of hypocrisy for a veterinarian to participate in hunting.
Ponzetto responded to the claims by saying that being a vet “is not incompatible with hunting, either morally or professionally.”
The Italian Veterinary’s Guild agreed, refusing calls for censure against Ponzetto. The organization released a statement saying, “hunting is a hobby regulated by the law, which does not allow us to take measures against him.”
While the guild will not act, the association that runs a stray dog kennel Ponzetto worked at has. He was stripped of his position as medical director over the weekend, with the members saying in a statement, “We strongly oppose any form of hunting or abuse of animals, wild or domestic.”
Ponzetto had worked there for 16 years.
No claims are being made that Ponzetto’s kill was illegal; the threats against him simply come from the fact lion hunting is unpopular.
The Local pointed to the successful attacks on Walter Palmer earlier in 2015 as possibly leading to the brazen conduct toward Ponzetto. After sparking international debate over the hunting of lions and other dangerous game in Africa, Palmer was recently declared innocent of wrongdoing in his killing of a lion outside Hwange National Park. He claimed the hunt was legal as far as he knew, and despite outcries from around the world, Zimbabwe officials finally agreed, according to an Oct. 12 article from USA Today.
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