The Animal Justice Warriors are not happy. A video, originally posted in 2013 on Youtube, is having a second life on social media. The AJW’s clearly wishes it never even had a first life. Nor the person it features: young Danish animal lover, Mikkel Legarth. In their eyes Legarth is an apostate to their state religion, a heretic in their First Church of the Exaltation of Animal above Man.
His apostasy is not expressed in ritual animal sacrifices or any such crude deeds as poaching. No, Legarth’s sin was to speak the truth in an irresponsible and unforgiveable manner. He wasn’t even expressing his very own opinion, but presented cold, hard, observable facts. The cad! And it was about lions and hunting. Ah, now you see, these two subjects according to the AJW catechism can only be dealt with using emotions and slogans. Facts and truth have no place in a proper discussion about the long-term prospects of lions. Truth and facts are the preserve of people like the fine folks at SAPA and should be avoided, whenever possible, by any self-respecting AJW.
Legarth was filmed at a conservation powwow speaking about the sad fate of the Ghanzi-lions in Botswana after the government banned all lion hunting. Before the ban, he said, the farmers and the lions had found a way of co-existing. The farmers tolerated the lions helping themselves to the occasional cow because the lions were inherently valuable enough to pay for their dinners. This worth was converted to pula and thebe by hunters who paid top dollar to bag some of these lions for trophies.
The moment the ban kicked in, the lions lost their monetary value and because they couldn’t continue to contribute to the financial viability of the cattle ranches, the farmers had a stark choice: face possible economic ruin or deter the lions from eating their cows. The latter being sound business sense, they set out to shoot large numbers of lions encroaching on their farms. The annihilation of local prides left a vacuum soon eagerly filled by lions roaming in from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and so they too fell, their demise being the unintended consequence of a measure aimed to achieve the exact opposite.
The anti-insurgency AJW hit-squads were never going to let Legarth get away with this blatant telling of the truth. Therefore they did what they always do when confronted with uncomfortable facts: ignore the message and slay the messenger. Legarth is not a true Animal Welfareista, they sniff. He likes to be hugged by a tame lioness. He is uncomfortably close with someone who is uncomfortably close with the controversial Christian de Graaff. So not a reliable witness then. Not that AJW’s are particularly fond of the concept of a “witness.” It carries too much baggage associated with those tiresome concepts of facts and truth. They prefer to talk about a “voice.” In their estimation Legarth is endowed with a voice that should be muffled.
In 2013 an AJW organisation, Lion Aid, had a crack at Mikkelsen’s video performance. They call it “a rather disjointed blather.” Yes, they’re using the verb “blather” as a noun but let’s disregard that and rather question their semantics, specifically their poor grasp of the adjective “disjointed.” Say what you will about Mikkelsen’s performance, and Lion Aid certainly does mouth off, it was certainly anything but “rambling, incoherent, fragmented or disorganized,” which are all synonyms of “disjointed.” The only thing that is clearly fragmented is Lion Aid’s comprehension. In fact, Mikkelsen’s presentation, delivered in soft, reasonable tones, was very well-structured with a properly devised beginning, middle and ending. It contains a decently argued introduction, expansion and analysis. It really is not his fault if this was beyond the grasp of those who would not hear.
The AJW will only deal with those facts they feel they can attack, and they certainly bared their fangs towards “some preposterous statements” Legarth made. These are: the last lion to be hunted in Botswana fetched $750,000 dollars (while the record, according to Lion Aid, is a paltry $120,000,) the ban did not kick in circa 2000 as Legarth avers but was at first a moratorium from 2001 – 2004 and only became a permanent ban from 2008, and he also erroneously stated that beef is exported from Botswana to the EU, while Lion Aid’s records show this has not been the case since 2010.
Yeah. Watch your facts, young Mikkel!
Still, any reasonable person would agree that the real price paid for a trophy lion in Botswana or the exact date of the hunting ban going into effect or the EU’s precise meat regulations have no bearing on the central argument in his short lecture. Any rebuttal of it should address his history lesson of how the hunting ban led to the wholesale slaughter of lions in the Ghanzi district of Botswana. Legarth’s argument is a roadside box the Animal Welfareistas won’t touch. They fear it’ll contain an IED that will blow to smithereens their notion that lion conservation will not be jeopardized by the demise of the trophy hunting industry.
Cherish or despise hunting, it is demonstrably a crucial element in the conservation of lions. Just admit it. Mikkel Legarth does.
Truly, these Animal Justice Warriors are not so much for the survival of the lion as they are against hunting.
Be sure to go to Lion Aid’s website and click on the “Donate” button, top right corner. Maintaining a lifestyle in which the AJW can feed his indignation doesn’t come cheap.
When it comes to animals, people's behavior is usually driven by their emotions instead of facts and knowledge -- it's a behavior that can result in the exact opposite of what was intended.
After working with the big cats in Southern Africa, Mikkel Legarth from Denmark co-founded Modisa Wildlife Project - a project that wants to define new standards on how we feel, think and act with regards to conservation.