Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Hunting Vs Poaching

Legal vs. Illegal Hunting

I am writing this article, because in the light of the Kendall Jones and Ian Gibson business, I feel that there has been a lot of miscommunication over the distinctions between legal and illegal hunting and I wish to elucidate any confusion and to offer my own opinion too.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kendall Jones then she is a 19 year old Texan big-game hunter who has recently taken to posting photos of herself smiling next to her kills, including lions, rhinoceroses and cheetahs, all over social media causing a massive controversy.  Some people have branded her a spoilt little brat, ostentatiously showing off her position and power over a defenceless animal, whilst others have commended her for using hunting as a positive power of force by helping to regulate population numbers.  Ian Gibson was a big-game hunter who was trampled to death by the elephant that he was hunting.  His death has sparked a similar controversy.

I have to admit that prior to discovering Kendall Jones and Ian Gibson, I was in the camp of people who would outright dismiss any form of hunting as an immoral, disgusting and inhumane activity which shouldn’t be encouraged in any shape or form.  However, I then started researching more into it and there I learnt the differences between legal and illegal hunting and most importantly, the distinctions between hunting and poaching. 

So, firstly, let’s highlight the key difference between hunting and poaching.  Hunting is legal.  Poaching is illegal.  Hunters respect their environments and their prey, whilst poachers do not.  Hunters only hunt during the appropriate season, whereas poachers will kill regardless of the time.  Hunters do not kill in excess and will respect bag limits, whilst poachers have no such reservations.  There are numerous other differences between legal and illegal hunting, but for the sake of clarity, I shall pick a different line of argument.

Kendall Jones’ main defence for her activities is that hunting animals can be a great method of population control.  Researching into this, I would tend to agree with her.  Certainly in places like Africa, there are rural villages, which are in danger of being threatened by wild animals.  Now, I’m not talking about something silly like a pride of lions swaggering in and gobbling up every human in sight, in fact, wild animals such as lions really only attack humans if they’re particularly desperate or old and infirm.  Instead, many villages run the risk of having elephants come charging in and trampling their crops and plants, thus depriving them of their food for a season.  Plus, animals can do damage to houses and they can hurt people too.  I remember reading in George Orwell’s autobiographical essay ‘Shooting an Elephant,’ where he is a policeman in Burma, an out of control elephant charges through a village and the villagers beg Orwell to kill it in order to protect their crops and houses.  Another argument that Kendall uses is that hunters only target the elderly or the infirm or particularly troublesome males who cause trouble in the herd.  This is something else I can respect.  In certain cases, herds can just abandon a particular animal that is causing them trouble.  Since some animals need to live in a group to survive, I would argue that giving them a quick, painless death is the humane thing to do.

Hunting can also strongly contribute to the economy of a local village.  If somebody wishes to go on a big-game hunt, they must first pay a special fee, which goes straight into conservation efforts.  This is something else that separates it from poaching, which is mostly privately funded, meaning that the profits also go into private pockets.  Hunters also respect their prey.  They hunt in massive big-game parks giving animals every chance and they kill them in the quickest, most humane ways possible.  They also respect the rules of hunting, such as not using tasers or firing from a moving vehicle, unlike poachers. 

Lastly, for some indigenous tribes, hunting is inherent in their culture.  Hunting is how they catch their food and feed their children.  Obviously these tribes are not in tune with the laws and political structures that govern their lands, so they run the risk of becoming poachers overnight.  For example, in an effort to evict the native Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Botswana government outlawed poaching, thus turning the Bushmen into criminals overnight.  The Bushmen that were caught hunting were arrested, beaten and tortured by the hands of the wardens.  Of course this raises a huge moral dilemma for these native tribes.  Do they either let their families starve or risk being unfairly arrested and convicted as poachers? This is exactly what happened to the Hadzabe tribe who chose to feed their families and ended up losing six of their number.  Of course this punishment of these tribes is disproportionate, unfair and counterproductive.  It is more productive to encourage the legal hunting of the native tribes who can inform on any illegal poachers in the area, than to criminalise these tribes whose only crime is trying to feed their families.  Again, we return to a puzzling moral dilemma.  Is it wrong to steal something if that something is a loaf of bread to feed a starving family?

So, where do I come down on hunting and poaching? What’s my view on Kendall Jones? Well, I think upon my research, I’m more in favour of hunting, as long as it’s legal and humane.  I feel that the vast majority of people jumped on the “Kendall Jones is a monster” bandwagon without being fully informed on hunting or poaching.  Furthermore, in today’s society where we can readily get meat from the local supermarket or burger joint, we forget where this meat has come from and what’s gone into turning it from a living animal to a processed, vacuumed pack steak or chicken breast.  Do I think that Kendall Jones was in the right? Whilst, I agree with her ideals, I don’t like her means.  Having found out about her reasons for hunting, I respect and agree with them, but I don’t like how she’s flaunted her successes over social media.  I feel that this is the equivalent of somebody giving money to a homeless person and then immediately posting about it on social media.  Did you do that because you’re a genuinely nice person or because you want people to think that you are and you want their approval to validate your own massive ego? So, what final lesson can we take away from this? Next time, you see an immense controversy surrounding an issue, rather than immediately jumping on one bandwagon or another, try doing a little research about the problem first.  Who knows? You might just learn something!

My sources:

1 comment:

  1. Lol! Loved the old man's saying.. Now, how to put this? I am an animal lover, I love nature , but I also believe in the balance of nature in which human intervention plays a big role. I must Google this Kendall Jones first, but between hunting and poaching, legal or illegal, I always give judgement based on its intent; however, boasting about your hunting on social media makes you a poacher who killed animals for the sake of flaunting it and gaining attention or applause (though I doubt it).