Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cecil and the White Guy

     I'm usually on the receiving end of the race card, which the presenter always seems to "hate" playing.  When the story of Cecil the lion scrambled masses of keyboard commandos to action, I recalled some recent social media chatter about dead African wildlife and decided it was my turn to throw it down.

     Over the past few years the random meme forwarding activists have been upset over big game hunters with various captions, either cheerleaders or entire families killing African big game.  The internet warriors launched threat and smear campaigns against the hunters through their key-clacking efforts across the electronic ether.

     Let's get the particulars out of the way.  I'm a hunter and an omnivore.  A previous post details my attempt at veganism.  I'm blessed with access to hunting grounds with ample herds of whitetail deer, and I fill my freezer with free-range, organic, grass fed, humanely and legally harvested meat every year.  I tried archery hunting, and despite my high level of marksmanship, I found the potential for injuring an animal too high.  Archery caused Cecil's suffering, according to what I've read.  I appreciate the challenge of hunting up close, but I prefer my kill to hit the ground dead.  No suffering, no tracking, no trauma.  From on-the-hoof to unprocessed meat in less than a second is a far better fate than commercial food animals face.  It's the way I'd prefer to go.

     I've met several hunters of African game.  While they hunt for trophy, each has told me in detail how the entire animal is consumed by locals, except for what returns with the hunter.  The hunts are expensive (five digits or so) and are conducted through government management programs.  This means that only certain animals may be hunted.  This type of management often saves animals from a horrible natural death, as seen in the video below.  The legality of Cecil's demise is questioned, of course.

      Not long before Cecil's fate, I stumbled onto an article about anti-poaching efforts underway in Africa.  Poaching kills larger numbers than legal hunting, and is not selective about taking only animals beneficial to management.  These are the people causing animals to become extinct.  The reason for the hunting is ivory, and one effort involves an injected dye to turn off buyers of poached and exported ivory.  Some efforts consider poisoning rhino horns with the intent to kill consumers.  This is where I learned some important things about ivory.  It is illegally and unethically harvested in Africa by Africans to feed an Asian market who believes it has
miraculous curative properties.

     That's when it hit me.  The keyboard warriors aren't after the most imminent threat to African wildlife, they're after their greatest foe:  Affluent white people.  Every photo I've seen cross my feed has a dead animal next to one of the three great evils in social media:  A rich white guy, attractive white girl, or rich white family, or a rich white family reported as Christian.  Religious groups are hated as well, but somehow believing rhino horn cures cancer or a hangover isn't as interesting in a tweet as slamming a Caucasian dominant religion.

     The meme forwarding masses stir the pot and ignite hatred with images of white people killing game, when the actual threat to numbers of African wildlife are being decimated by Africans (not white) harvesting animals to feed the superstition-based hunger of Asian countries (also not white).  In every reputable story I've seen about white people killing African game, African people benefit from the money, food and other resources derived from taking the animal.  The hunts are extremely expensive with the intent to maximize revenue with a relatively small number of harvested animals.  One American hunter I spent some time with told me that their hunting party assisted in anti-poaching activities as required by law, which is fairly common for legal foreign hunters.  Poachers take the ivory and let the animal rot, and they're not likely to selfie an emotional photo with the dead animal, but the photos are out there, and very graphic.  I'll bet you've never seen one cross your news feed.
We should be upset about Cecil's fate because he could have been taken by more ethical means, but it would be nice for the committed Facebook avengers to concentrate their efforts on poachers rather than lawful hunters, or maybe educate themselves on game management a bit.  Here we have another issue driven astray by racism and emotion over facts.


  1. But why would they attack poor poachers that they cannot sue or later redistribute their monies when they have affluent white people to come after? After all, having money and being white is a crime in America now, isn't it?

    1. It seems the South African Park Rangers have been working on the problem a while: