Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve probably noticed the hotly-debated death of Cecil the lion, a 13-year old African lion living in Zimbabwe National Park, that was killed by Minnesota hunter and dentist, Walter Palmer. The news of this hunt has spread like wildfire, thanks to social media, but why does it matter to cattle producers?
It matters because the same arguments used to defile hunting and hunters are used against ranching and ranchers. Agriculturalists are seasoned veterans at defending our management practices even in the face of an activist-released YouTube video or negative media headlines about food production. Often, hunting and livestock production get lumped together as one, which is why I feel compelled to comment on this topic.
For starters, I think it goes without saying that, just like the bad apples in the agricultural industry, nobody should stand behind a hunter who illegally or unethically kills an animal. Ultimately, all the righteous rhetoric on social media isn’t a court of law, and I’m in no position to judge whether Palmer did the right or wrong thing during this hunt. However, more than social media attacking Palmer, we are seeing the entire sport of hunting and fishing getting lumped into one basket. Recently, my husband, who is an avid sportsman, defended his hobby to a Facebook friend who made the grand-sweeping statement that she’ll never understand hunting for sport.
Here is what Tyler had to say: “If everything the media is reporting is true, I agree this guy is not a true sportsman. He seems to live on the shady side of the law and needs to hire a more respectable guide for his safari. That being said, hunters and fishermen are the number-one contributors to conservation, by far. The $50,000 he spent probably went back into the village, which is more than likely very poor. More often than not, the hunter is looking for a mature male that is on the decline of his life and does not hurt the overall population at all. It actually keeps the population healthier because only the strongest animals are allowed to reproduce. Despite what activist groups tell us, many of the African animals we all love are actually doing very well because of the efforts of conservationists. Personally, I estimate that I have spent over $5000 in my life time just on licenses and fees. That does not count my donations and volunteer time to different wildlife groups and the thousands that my family and I have spent on conservation efforts on our land. I am not defending this dentist, the way he allegedly killed that lion was unethical and wrong, but without efforts of hunters and fishermen, many of the wild places everybody enjoys would not be there today. We shouldn’t be quick to lump all hunters into the same group, just like we wouldn’t stereotype others for the actions of one individual.”
Then there’s the other perspective. While some in the U.S. are ready to crucify the Minnesota dentist, I recently read a testimony from an African citizen who offers a different view on this subject.
“It’s so cruel, but I don’t understand the whole fuss, there are so many pressing issues in Zimbabwe — we have water shortages, no electricity, and no jobs — yet people are making noise about a lion?” said Eunice Vhunise, a Harare resident, in a recent interview. “I saw Cecil once when I visited the game park. I will probably miss him. But honestly the attention is just too much.”
What’s even more alarming than watching sportsmen get attacked on social media is the growing number of people who value the life of an animal more than the life of a human being. As food producers, it’s our responsibility and our nature to not only care for the livestock we manage, but to also feed and nourish people around the world. As a result, it’s disturbing to hear the public outcry over the death of an aging lion in an African game preserve instead of focusing on the water and food shortages the people in that region are suffering from.
According to the Borgen Project, in the land where Cecil once called home, Africans are facing 80% unemployment and 75% of the world’s poorest countries are located in Africa, including Zimbabwe, Liberia and Ethiopia. What’s more, approximately one in three people living in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished, and 589 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity. Poverty in Africa results in over 500 million people suffering from waterborne diseases. More than 1 million people, mostly children under the age of five, die each year of malaria with 90% of the world’s malaria deaths happening in Africa.
Hunting and livestock production are very similar as they both stimulate the economy, contribute to conservation efforts and protect the land and the wildlife the general public gets to enjoy. As Twitter continues to blow up about the loss of a beloved wild animal — not a pet — let’s try to ignite some conversations about real issues — hunger, drought, disease and orphans around the world who need our love and support.
What do you think about the Cecil the lion debate? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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