Killing Lions is Good
I figured that headline would get your attention and now that I’ve got it let me be clear, yes I do actually believe that and no I do not intend to apologize.
I will take my time and write this article slowly, which will allow plenty of time for you to hyperventilate, curse my name and then make a concerted effort to get me fired as soon as possible. All of which are completely predictable and further confirmation that you have little or no grasp of the issue at hand.
Lets begin with some background; I am a hunter and I was raised in a family that valued the idea of collecting our own meat. It is an idea that I embrace now more than in years past for several reasons. Today I hunt along with my wife and kids. We are teaching our children the value of self-sufficiency and raising a new generation of hunters. We hunt big game like deer, elk and moose. We also hunt much smaller creatures including rabbits and ducks. The satisfaction of sitting down to a meal with my family knowing that we contributed to the feast with our own hands is immeasurable. When we further contribute from our garden we often fill our dinner plates without using one thing from the local supermarket. We know how the meat and produce was handled, cared for and packaged and therefore we do not concern ourselves with food borne illnesses. The nutritional value of free range organic meat is no comparison to the animals raised by other methods. And when it comes to flavor, well there is no comparison to the wild animals around us for something really special.
If you choose not to hunt that is fine with me. I certainly do not care what you put in your body, that’s your choice but I beg of you do not try to dictate what I am allowed to eat. For too many years the likes of the United States Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other shrill animal rights groups have pushed for the end of all hunting in America.
It seems strange to me that a group of left wing fringe activist groups like those in the animal rights movement would attack a tradition as old as time itself. Native Americans are among the most revered hunters and are respected for their traditions and culture. It almost seems anti- hunters have a racist thread running through their arguments but that is for another day. But make no mistake this is not about Cecil but about ending all hunting, period.
So lets take a moment and discuss some facts.
To begin with there is this thing some adults like to call economic reality. The reality is when something has no actual value it is treated as such and when something has great value it is also treated accordingly. This law of economics is no less true for the flora and fauna of our world. In the case of the Greater White Rhino for example they were being hunted (poached actually) to near extinction primarily for the horn on their nose because some in Africa and others in the far east believed it would make their otherwise smallish penises larger. So the poachers were killing the Rhinos, sawing off their horns and leaving the rest to rot in the mid afternoon sun. It was indeed very sad. The villagers in many areas with Rhino populations cared little and many would get a small amount of money to help with the illegal killing. So they did what it took to get a little bit of cash. They are desperately poor people who would take money any way they could and that included taking it for the killing of an animal they had little practical use for. They just wanted to eat and hoped they could feed their families as well.
Now here is where many of you will get a bit out of sorts- you see at some point it became obvious that old Rhinos, both male and female that were well beyond breeding age would become loners and often destructive to the local villages- so somebody got the genius idea of having them hunted- legally. Well they soon learned in sub-saharan Africa (which I have visited a couple times) that these barren Rhino would bring $75,000 or more on the open market from Americans and Canadians and Germans who wanted to hunt them. As a result the villages would and still do today share in the revenue. And you know what happened? The poachers soon found they were no longer welcome because the money from big game hunters far exceeded the few shinkles they offered to villagers. And yes these monies have been used to build schools, provide medical facilities and even pay for new wells to provide fresh running water.
Another novel approach employed by the nation of Namibia took it one step further. On the Kalahari Fringe many of the poachers were hired as game wardens. They were given uniforms and jobs and frankly a future. As a result there has not been a single animal poached in northern Namibia in years. You see not only were the villages given an economic stake in the survival of the animals so were the poachers and trust me no one knows more about stopping the illegal killing of animals around the world then those that did it themselves.
Sometimes it takes a few different ideas to get to the right answer. The notion of banning one of the most useful tools to protect wildlife, sport hunting is short sighted and misguided.
So I’m sure some of you are in full on convulsions by now, repulsed by the truth but the truth isn't always what you'd wish it to be. I wish the Irish Elk hadn’t disappeared a few thousand years ago. I wish Bengal Tigers still roamed in great numbers but they don’t. I wish that Teddy Roosevelt, a trophy hunter, would have been President sooner to implement what has become the greatest game management system in the world, ours. I wish the Passenger Pigeon wasn’t wiped out. The bird went extinct in 1914, it’s demise created in large part by commercial hunters right here in Michigan. I wish we had understood actual game management practices sooner and that actual conservationists had been able to take the lead earlier but this is what we have left. Whether you like it or not, sport hunting is part of the solution.
So let me leave you with one more cautionary tale. It is a timely story as well. The Lion will disappear if it is deemed to be worth nothing. That is certain. If Americans like the dentist from Minnesota (and by the way I have no idea of this mans history or past illegal acts and do not defend or condone any illegal actions he may have taken) are told they cannot import Lions to America they will have no actual value to the locals and will be treated as such.
While visiting Namibia in 2008 I learned that Cheetahs there which number about 4,000 or less now are routinely shot by cattle ranchers as they have no value and threaten their livestock and livelihood. The truth is if Cheetahs could be imported into the United States legally they would have tremendous cash value immediately and would begin to flourish once again. You see a cattle rancher wouldn't shoot one if it were worth $10,000 or more to him and his family. I was offered a chance to kill a Cheetah during my trip. I said no thank you. They would have let me kill several of them for free- because they have no value to the locals. Ironically, Namibia has the largest number of Cheetahs left in the wild and they are being killed because they kill livestock and are considered worthless vermin. No value means they currently have no chance.
Currently Cheetahs are fighting for survival. The Greater White Rhino’s numbers are increasing in the wild but they still have a long way to go. At least sport hunting has given them a fighting chance. The future of the Lion in the wild is still up in the air. Hopefully American politicians won’t issue them a death sentence by declaring them worthless.
Do you get it yet?