I don’t know about you, but I often find myself making judgments about people and situations without much information and experience.
One example of this is how I’ve felt about people who hunt African animals. Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures on social media of someone next to some large African mammal like a lion or elephant. Stamped on the picture is the person’s name and the instructions to spread their shame. I admit having negative feelings toward those people. How could they? Why would you want to kill such a beautiful animal? Why would you take away the opportunity for others to see it?
The problem was that I didn’t know those people or their motivation. I didn’t know the situation of the hunt or the rules. And yet, I made negative judgments about them. We do this all the time. With the bare minimum of information, we judge one another and, in the process, judge ourselves superior: morally, ethically, politically, or religiously.
So I decided to ask our guide about hunting in South Africa. First, we need to clarify the difference between hunting and poaching. Poaching is the illegal killing of an animal, whether it’s for a small piece of the animal (like the horn of a rhino) or for the meat to sell or feed a family (like a kudu or springbock). Hunting is a legal activity.
In South Africa, hunting is only allowed on game reserves and it’s strictly regulated. Just like in Pennsylvania, wildlife experts determine the carrying capacity of habitats and use hunters to bring down numbers when necessary. These hunters then are able to use the meat to feed their families. Trophy hunting (for lions, elephants, etc) is similar. On some occasions there are too many males of a particular species in an area and instead of having them kill each other, a hunting permit is given. The hunter can only take that specific animal in a specific time period. Or sometimes an animal is older and the wildlife management team knows it will soon be killed by others or die naturally. Again, the hunter has to find that specific animal or they are out of luck.
The money from the permits is then used by the reserves for conservation and continued protection of all the animals.
It is perfectly justifiable to be against all kinds of hunting, or just trophy hunting. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just as some people choose to be vegans and others love to eat meat. But, either way, it’s important to have the right information before judging, and especially, criticizing others.
We often just don’t take the time to listen to those we judge, seek the right information, or ask the right questions. I hope our Engage Stories programs are a way to listen to others and practice asking the right questions of each other so we can learn and have more informed opinions.