It seems to have become a pattern now for the internet to periodically explode with fresh hatred for the professional hunting crowd.
It’s absurd. And, to be honest, it’s shameful.
While it’s definitely bad that Cecil the lion was lured out of a Game Reserve to be shot with a bow and arrow, tracked for 40 hours, and then beheaded and skinned for trophy mounting (I’m very sure that the professional hunters would term that “unprofessional” hunting) – the only real bad part is the stealing of a Game Reserve lion. That is poor form.
As for the hunting part…the best conservationists are professional hunters. I wrote about this the time before the last time that the internet exploded with hunting rage, and then re-shared it that last time. Here’s the link: Let What’s Her Name Hunt Lions.
And here is the updated important section:
The Empirical Evidence
- In 1964, South Africa had a national herd of wild game consisting of around 575,000 wild animals.
- The safari hunting and game lodge industry began to develop at around that time.
- Today, the wildlife population is close to 19 million (Update: up to 24 million since I wrote that first post).
- White rhino, black wildebeest and bontebok were brought back from the brink of extinction by breeding programs on private game farms.
- Also: the South African hunting industry contributes R8 billion to GDP each year (Update: R10 billion to GDP in 2014).
And here is the direct comparison:
- Kenya banned all hunting in 1977 (sport-hunting, hunting for meat, everything).
- It has lost between 60% and 70% of its large mammals since (Update: it’s now 85%).
- Here is a paper by Mike Norton-Griffiths (an economic environmental consultant who presents a lot of papers at conferences) called “How Many Wildebeest Do You Need?” where he explains the causal link between these two pieces of evidence.
- Here’s a 2007 article from the Economist.
- And here is an awkward video clip from earlier this year.
These are not blind emotions – these are facts. If you want to save the lions, you have to allow professional hunting.
And successful petitions to ban hunting will do completely the opposite.
As for all the horror and disgust…
Perhaps this makes me a bad person, but I feel very little for Cecil.
What I’m trying to say is: I try to be consistent. In my daily life, I am mostly indifferent to external suffering. When I see beggars on street corners, I roll up my windows and lock the car doors. When I see homeless people, I cross to the other side of the street. I also don’t stop to pick up hitchhikers.
As I see it, there’s just so much suffering in the world that you need to get selective with your moments of empathy. Otherwise, you get depressed, which is not helpful at all. We’re mostly built for small moments of direct empathic intervention with the people in the immediate vicinity – that is where the impact is greatest; and therefore, where it is most needed and most useful.
So suddenly flicking on a sentiment switch because an animal was killed seems like a waste of empathy energy. Humans are more important than animals – so if you’re going to rant, rather be outraged by the Syrian conflict, where millions have been displaced and where no one is helping, than get all preachy about a single lion in a Zimbabwean game reserve.
But perhaps that’s just me.
In the interim, another infographic (also a bit preachy, but facts…):