With the platforms usual lack of balanced perspective, Social Media is awash with calls for the American dentist who shot Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe to be killed, extradited, imprisoned, run out-of-town. Other self-appointed moral crusaders are calling for his dental practice to be boycotted, all forms of hunting to be banned and more.
It’s the digital equivalent of calls for public lynching, burning at the stake, hanging, drawing and quartering of thieves, witches and highwaymen in medieval times.
Both equally dangerous forms of mob rule. If this latest episode of mob justice is effective, the dentist’s staff will be unemployed and his patients unattended. Like Bernard Eich of Mozilla fame, and other undeserving victims of mob hysteria.
As a former resident of Rhodesia before and after it became the chaotic, brutal and corrupt state of Zimbabwe, I say it is time to put the furore over the killing of one lion into perspective.
I too am sad that a magnificent animal was killed for sport. That it was a particularly good specimen, a tourist attraction and wearing a tracking device, the subject of a research project, makes it more distasteful. However is it any worse than killing a North American Bear, cougar or coyote?
Facts are in short supply on social media, here are the facts as I can find them from slightly more reputable sources in conventional media.
- The hunter paid a considerable fee for a permit to hunt a lion in a hunting area.
- He also paid a fee to a professional hunt operator to guide him on the hunt.
- It has not been proven that the lion was lured out of the game park.
- Controlled hunting has many benefits for tribal people and game conservation in Africa.
Anything beyond those few facts is speculation.
He might not be a likeable person, that does not make him a criminal, that is up to the courts to decide.
There is an element of hypocrisy at play here. Every year in North America thousands (estimates range up to millions) of animals are shot for sport. Many by hunters sitting in camouflaged hides waiting for unsuspecting deer to wander by.
At least in Africa the animals have a chance to even the score by killing or injuring the hunter.
I have shot animals, Guinea fowl for the pot, Monkeys and Baboons to protect my crops. A rabid jackal to protect my dogs, badly injured, desperately sick and old horses and cattle to prevent further suffering. Cattle, goats and pigs for meat for my workers and my family. A stranger’s dog to put an end to his misery as he crawled, back legs paralysed, one eye hanging on a thread, his life slowly bleeding out of him after he had been hit by a car.
Did I enjoy shooting them?
Shooting long-loved horses and pets, badly injured, suffering animals is heart-breaking, but it is better than the alternative of not shooting them, letting them suffer.
Shooting crop raiding monkeys, baboons and wild pig, or poisonous snakes in houses, not as bad. But for me the thrill was in the stalking, getting close enough to take one killing shot, the skill of my marksmanship to prevent suffering, not the killing of the animal.
I do not like the idea of killing animals for sport, however the wild life of Africa is under threat of extinction from increasing human population, poaching and corrupt, ineffective governments.
Controlled hunting, whether we like it or not, does generate large revenues for game conservation. It helps pay the wages of locals who may other wise become poachers.
It encourages African governments to protect large areas of bush against the encroachment of humans, domestic animals and fields for crops, all of which result in the departure of most wildlife species. Here is a link to an article in Huffington Post by wildlife expert Dr. Luke Hunter who believes that hunting lions is unpalatable but necessary for conservation.
Before hypocritical liberals caused the destruction of the peaceful, stable, successful nation of Rhodesia and its conversion to the chaotic, corrupt and impoverished country of Zimbabwe as it is today, the country was a pioneer in game conservation. With neighbouring South Africa, it was home to some of the biggest game sanctuaries in Africa and the world. Supporting the largest populations of black and white rhinocerous, elephants and many other species that are now endangered.
The real target of the moral crusaders should be the corrupt Zimbabwe government. Having crippled the economy with its brutal, illegal and racially motivated destruction of the commercial farming sector – the largest employer and foreign exchange generator.
Why then this lack of perspective?
Why the focusing of so much moral outrage and hate on one incident, one animal and one dentist?
First, the “cuddleability factor” in this post in June, Values,Property Rights and Mink Farms I wrote about how small furry animals arouse much more sympathy in humans than cold, scaly, often dangerous, reptiles.
Large furry animals like lions with innocuous names like Cecil do too. Apart from tamed lions like the famous Elsa and very few others, lions are definitely not cuddly. They are big, dangerous and can easily kill humans. They are not just a bigger version of grumpy cat.
Second an easy target. The hunter is a white, male, wealthy, gun owning American hunter. As a health professional in private practice, perceived to be one of “them” – the 1% who can be blamed for everything. What better cocktail of perceived evil could mob psychology wish for?
A virtually unknown professional hunter, a local guide and the government of one of the poorest countries in the world are not attractive or worthwhile targets.
The various platforms of social media are ideal for people with no other channels to voice their opinions, but that’s all they are opinions.
The hypocrisy of people with no knowledge of the real situation on the ground, many of whom ignore the fact that millions of animals and birds are purposefully bred and slaughtered every year to feed them and other humans, is amazing.
Driven by political correctness, social media has evolved beyond a cause for good into a weapon for mob rule and intolerance. There is a real and increasing danger that just as Hitler’s old media propaganda in the 1930s led to the worst experience of persecution the world has known – the Holocaust – so will the digital propaganda of the on-line era lead to the suffocating of all dissenting opinion, mob rule and anarchy.
It’s time the users of social media displayed tolerance, responsibility and restraint, if not governments will impose it on them in the form of censorship.
That is the last thing anyone wants. We need a different perspective.