I wonder if the tech entrepreneurs of yesteryear could have predicted that one of the odd consequences of digital globalisation is that it can often leave you feeling isolated? We all know that the public places which used to be filled with pleasantries and small talk among strangers are now occupied by frowning faces looking down at screens – that’s nothing particularly new (and it would be foolish to lament my adult past as being any different). But last month I found myself combining physical action/real life company and a global, social movement – and for the first time truly understanding how the Internet can bring people together. I joined the #GlobalMarchForLions movement – along with people in South Africa, Australia, Europe, and those picketing next to me in Trafalgar Square, London – to stand in solidarity with man’s symbol of strength and freedom. Ironically, the very animal that epitomises those values to us, is the same one that can find itself born into a corrupt money-spinning industry: moving between petting farms as cubs, ‘walk with lion’ attractions as adolescents and onto sinister hunting realms as adults. Something which tourist industries across Africa seem only to happy to cash in on. I have heard the argument, more than once, that canned hunting provides a humane method of population control, helpful in distracting those wanting a lion pelt trophy – or better still, a severed head to mount on the wall – from killing wild lions illegally in reserves. It makes sense. Until you discover that those lions bred (or captured) for canned hunting are often chastised, beaten, drugged or have teeth literally ripped from their gums to put them at a disadvantage to the hunters (who can pay a few hundred pounds more to shoot them with a crossbow, incase that sweetens the pot).
One of the things I respected most about joining the Global March for Lions, was the ferocity of the message but the gentleness of its delivery. That’s not to say it was delivered without impact, rather with understanding that having an informed opinion is difficult when knowledge of certain things is often hard to come by. But we were willing to share it – canned hunting makes no difference to wild population numbers, as those poor creatures that find themselves part of the industry, have never really had the chance to be wild. There are less than 4,000 wild lions left in South Africa, but 8,000 in captivity, breed for the bullet. The early part of their lives (being hand-reared, petted by tourists, used for ‘walk with lion’ experiences, etc.) means they are essentially tame, and trust humans entirely by the time they are released into an enclosed camp to be shot at. Often the bullets or bows that hit the lions are fired by those who are not trained marksmen, leaving the creatures in terrible pain until an employed gunman finishes the job. The lasting message I took from #globalmarchforlions, as we delivered our petition to South Africa House: urging the country to stop advertising canned hunting as an acceptable tourist attraction, was that together – albeit in unity and protest on the street, or by raising awareness together online through hashtags, conversations or even sharing blog posts like this one, we can roar loudly for condemned captive lions!