So many hateful comments flood social media when poaching stories hit the news.
Guilty of sometimes feeling like this? Here’s 5 reasons you should stop hating the player, and start hating the game:
1. Poachers are not malevolent or killing for thrills.That’s the description of a hunter.
By comparison poachers act out of desperation. Average annual income is lower than $400 per capita in 10 African countries. When income is this low extreme poverty can kill you in a number of different ways.
If I was in that position, I would do anything to stop my family dying from easily preventable diseases too.
2. Poachers do not survive.We often hear the figures for animal deaths. They’re tragic. It’s estimated 850 rhinos are poached each day in South Africa. And 100 elephants each day across Africa.
But we rarely hear about the fate of poachers. Poachers used to be fined for possession, and if they couldn’t pay they would get sent to jail. With the AIDS crisis any jail time becomes a death sentence, especially when ‘slow puncture‘ is used.
Now many African countries have brought in shoot-to-kill policies with varying results.
Whether shoot-to-kill policies are just is debatable. They’ve been brought in as a desperate last resort to protect the animals and rangers. But they bring all kinds of humanitarian issues.
The media doesn’t present this debate fairly. All humanity is lost when poacher deaths and ‘poacher killers’ are celebrated and glorified with zero context.
Animal cruelty is horrific, and poaching causes a real risk of extinction. But don’t let anger drive humanitarianism out of you. These are still real consequences happening to real people.
3. Poachers aren’t the masterminds.The illegal wildlife industry is worth $19bn.
It’s incredibly wealthy, but it’s also incredibly dark. The criminal organisations running this operation are also involved in the illegal drugs trade, arms trade, human trafficking and terrorism.
It’s a vast and complicated network. Claiming poachers are capable of masterminding or having any responsibility for this operation is ridiculous.
Poachers may pull the trigger. But within the industry they’re nothing more than puppets, with someone much higher up pulling the strings.
4. It’s human nature to find blame.In times of crisis we immediately want to find the culprit and punish them.
But what happens when the culprit is a massive and complicated network of separate organisations?
We’re drawn to poachers as the only visible part of the operation. But by putting all of our efforts into demanding harsher punishments for poachers we’re avoiding the root cause of the problem. And taking attention away from the true criminals.
We pin issues on the easiest target all the time. A similar example is the barrage of hate Walter Palmer received after shooting Cecil the lion. When his name hit the media everyone who hated game hunting suddenly had a very obvious target. But punishing Walter Palmer as an individual did nothing to stop game hunting as a whole.
5. Hating poachers won’t end poaching.The next time you feel the need to go on a rant about poachers, take a deep breath. Remember things aren’t always as black and white as the media would have us believe.
Killing a poacher will never resolve poaching because they are disposable. The trade has many more desperate people to choose from.
It’s also unfair to completely disregard the desperate circumstances people are in before becoming poachers. Yes, poachers need to be punished for their crimes, but we should be more compassionate.
For example there’s an incredible safari in Zimbabwe that takes on poachers after their prison time and trains them to become rangers.
As a side note, hating the entire Chinese population won’t end poaching either. Education will. When surveyed 70% of Chinese people didn’t realise elephants had to be killed for their tusks. They were told elephants tusks fell out naturally and grew back like fingernails.
The trade doesn’t answer to demand, it creates it.
YOU CAN HELP END POACHING
Shift your hatred from the poachers to the illegal wildlife industry. As a whole.
Act on that hatred to make a difference:
Step 1: Sign to ban the legal ivory trade.
Step 2: Sign to investigate current endangered wildlife trade for corruption.
Step 3: Sign to pass the Global Anti-Poaching Act. This targets the trade as a whole, not just poachers.
Want to be a more responsible traveler?
Tiny changes can make a huge difference
Tips to help both animals and people