Well, if you don’t know about it already, a well-known TV presenter took a picture of herself with the lion she shot on a farm in South Africa. She was recently brought under the all-powerful microscope of society to be scrutinised and threatened by people who know nothing about what she did, except for the bare basics. Some of these comments, made by respectable people, celebrities and the common internet junkie, have been deplorable in their own right, calling this woman things like ‘monster’, ‘evil’, and ‘poes’ (If you’re not South African, this is a very rude word which one certainly would not use publicly to describe a person).
And yet, the people doing the insulting don’t know the details of the situation, They simply follow others on-board the train to ‘higher moral ground’ and from there grant themselves the power in numbers to publicly condemn this woman without consequence. I find this quite disturbing. It brings to mind the idea that civilisation as we know it is only separated by a thin veil from absolute chaos. People just need an insignificant incident to excuse themselves from virtue and act with impunity.
Let’s get down to it then. Yes, yes, the moral saying of the day is that hunting is evil, that we should condemn it as a barbaric, savage act of cruelty to animals. I think that’s a perfectly valid opinion, or rather, it would be if we did not live in a society which uses animal products on a massive scale, which effectively makes anyone who uses the colourful aforementioned words look like a total moron (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Mansfield. Way to go for propagating ignorance and redundant values).
Here are some fun facts I picked up after 5 minutes of research: Throughout the world, 50 billion chickens a year are raised (meaning this number will die within the year) for human consumption. These chickens are kept in cages which are comparable in size to an A4 paper. You eat chicken burgers/chicken fillet/eggs/chicken wings/chicken anything, really. This means that you are condoning the mass-genocide of animals every year. What’s that you’re sitting on? Leather? No, no. It looks more like SHAME.
My frustrations on the subject: It’s alright to condemn hunting if you’re a vegan and live like a hippie. But it’s not alright to condemn hunting when you eat meat, own leather products or use animal produce in any way, which implicates almost everyone on Earth. They have a name for someone like this: Hypocrite.
How (Legal and Illegal) Hunting Works: I live in a country which makes a great deal of its annual income from the hunting industry. Do we hunt animals in the wild? No, not legally. There is a reason for this, which is quite simple. Animals don’t really survive out in the wild – lions, leopards, rhino, you name it, they mean only one thing to poachers: money. A poacher is not restricted from finding these animals out in the wild. They are in essence walking money. A hunter-friend of mine tells me lions can be worth R200 000 and up. However, the legalised hunting industry in South Africa makes use of game farms, which are basically vast areas of untouched land which are fenced off and filled with a very low density population of animals of any variety. These animals are allowed to breed naturally, are not fed any funky stuff and pretty much lead the life of an animal in the wild, except that their natural predators are replaced by humans. Game farmers are people of the land. They live right next to nature every day. They rely on it for their livelihoods, and thus have an incentive to ensure that the population of animals on their farms does not decrease. The game farmer will allow hunters to enter the farm and enjoy a drive through the beautiful South African savannah for a few hours while searching for an animal. Professional hunting standards dictate that when you shoot an animal, it has to be an instant kill. This is enforced by the fact that animals are tough and will run away and die somewhere else if you hit them in the wrong place, and the hunter will end up having to pay a small fortune to take nothing home. The hunter pays for what he kills, the farmer ensures that the animal population remains consistent and a healthy ecosystem remains on the farm. A species like the west African lion, which would otherwise be hunted to extinction by poachers in the wild, is guaranteed survival as a species, protected from poachers who don’t care about how they kill, or how many they kill.
Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks.
Why the Hunting Industry is Essential to Animals: That sounds very counter-intuitive, but it’s an established, albeit little-known fact. Let’s think about what would happen if hunting in South Africa were banned, if the fences came down and the hunters stopped coming and paying to hunt animals legally. The populations of these animals would decline dramatically, simply because there isn’t much ‘wild’ left. Old game farms would likely be turned into crop farms or developed, driving the animals into ever-shrinking habitats. Do the maths: So much land = so many animals. The less land, the less animals that can survive. Then take into account the poachers. Do you think they’d let a walking moneybag like a lion walk around in the wild for long? Consider every valuable animal in South Africa extinct within a few decades, probably less. Then the less valuable will follow as the numbers dwindle. Furthermore, consider the implications for the local environment, which would ultimately suffer in the total and very sudden absence of these animals. Whether you like it or not, hunting is here to stay. It is the foremost effort of wildlife conservation in South Africa. It’s sustainable, it’s definitely more humane than the factory-farms you get your burger-patties from, and it’s profitable so you can be damn sure it’s not going anywhere in a while.
The Moral Implications: A dear (and very sexy) friend of mine highlighted that she finds hunting more or less acceptable provided it’s not for recreation and that the catch is used to make food, etc. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Any hunter worth his salt knows how to turn his catch of the day into a month’s worth of delicious biltong (South African beef Jerky, but aeons better) or knows someone who can do it for him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy the South African scenery, breathe the fresh air, enjoy looking at the other less interesting animals as he drives by and, of course, experience the thrill of having caught the damn thing. Believe it or not, aiming and firing a VERY heavy rifle at a moving animal’s head from far away is tough, and any human who doesn’t celebrate his or her ability to do it right is certainly not doing it right in the first place.
Hunting, whether you despise it or celebrate it, is an art as old as the human race itself. Sure, the weapons have changed, but the feeling of earning your dinner for the night with sweat and hard work is as ingrained in us as any emotion. It’s the exact same feeling the hunter feels today. It’s like experiencing a little piece of history.
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And always remember to stand back and look at the big picture before stoning someone to death.
I won’t be posting related articles because they are all essentially saying the exact same thing, which happens to be incorrect and uninformed.