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Controversial Halloween Costume Portrays Walter Palmer, Cecil The Lion

| by Jared Keever

After public backlash, a California-based costume company has decided to donate all of the profits from its controversial “Lion Killer Dentist” Halloween costume. 

The costume began making headlines this week after the company Costumeish posted photos and a description of it on its website. 

The costume is meant to depict Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer, who, in July, shot and killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe during a hunt that some say was illegal.

“All Doctor Palmer wanted was to hang dead animals in his house, but what started as an obscure (if legally-dubious) hunting trip has since erupted into a brouhaha of trans-Atlantic proportions,” reads the costume’s description on the company’s website.

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The description notes that the hunt has pitted an “outraged mob against a Minnesotan dentist in a scandal sure to be remembered for a generation.”

“Our Cecil Lion Killer Dentist Costume features a severed lion's head mask, bloody smock, and bloody gloves for a gruesome, complete look,” the description adds.

The costume sells for $99.99.

Founder and vice president of Costumeish, 33-year-old Jonathon Weeks, told Time magazine that his company’s inventory is partly dictated by the news cycle. 

The company also tracks what people are typing in the search field of its website. 

“Cecil was coming up, and just like with many of the other ones, like the Ebola or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge costumes, we see the trend from users,” Weeks said. “Halloween is a really tricky day and you see some of the costumes come about and it’s almost like desensitizing things.”

At the time of the Time article, which was published Aug. 25, the site said the company would donate 15 percent of the proceeds from the costume to a wildlife foundation, but hadn’t named which one.

Weeks seemed to be somewhat understanding that the costume might offend people in the interview.

“Maybe our money has Cecil’s lion’s blood on it,” he said. “I’m not here to offend anybody, I’m just here to keep things questionable. We’re just in the very beginning of this Halloween season. There’s more to come.

“ ... Where do you draw the line? I don’t know. I won’t make a toddler ISIS costume.”

Since the Time article, the website has been amended. 

“Due to public outlash and petition launched by Doreen Harley and the almost 40,000 signatures along with the opinion of our company we will be donating 100% of the profit from our Lion Killer Costume to a Wildlife Foundation,” a bold-type message at the bottom of the costume’s page reads. “Our intentions are not to make profit off the beloved Lion. However please remember, if our costume caused an immediate reaction such as disgust or anger to you just imagine how Cecil felt. Hunting endangered Lions and any animal for that matter is disgusting and should be stopped.”

And it seems the organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, agrees. 

PETA has also announced a Cecil-inspired costume, called “Cecil’s Revenge,” which sells for $139.99, The Huffington Post reports. 

The costume features a bloody dentist’s jacket with a stuffed lion that appears to be pouncing on the wearer’s back, taking a bite out of the shoulder. 

(PETA via Huffington Post)

“As animals continue to die in agony at the hands of trophy hunters, it's only fitting for people to make fun of Palmer for his illegal, violent pursuit,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a news release about the costume. 

Sources: Costumeish, Time, The Huffington Post

Photo credit: Costumeish, Costumeish Screenshot