Primarily the Bambi Effect designates the emotional trauma, usually mild and transitory experienced by hunters and trappers when viewing close up a dead or dying and suffering neotenous
, i.e., "cute and adorable" animal for whose death and suffering they suddenly acknowledge some responsibility.
Guilt experienced by a hunter as he suddenly identifies with the suffering of an animal which he has killed. The name is a reference to the classic Disney film, Bambi, in which the tragic climax to the story is reached as the protagonist's (Bambi's) mother is killed by hunters.
Secondarily the effect pertains to the reaction of witnesses to scenes of the brutal killing of said neotenous
animals, e.g., harp seal pups clubbed by Canadian hunters.
The black limpid pools for eyes of small, helpless harp seal pups connote childlike innocence, and it was the oft repeated images in the mass media of the clubbing of seal pups that caused an outcry in the 1970's to protect the pups from Canadian hunters. Strangely, the continual slaughter of bonobo
apes, who are genetically closest to humans or of West African elephants, orders of magnitude more intelligent and consciously aware than any seal pup, never provoked nearly the same amount of public concern and outrage against animal cruelty. This seeming ethical inconsistency is no doubt owing to the differential operation of the Bambi Effect upon witnesses to images of human-caused animal suffering.