It seems that the tragedy of Cecil the lion has inflamed the conscience of the world on animal rights issues with people all over the social media sphere venting their outrage in various forms. However, perhaps this is just the tip of an iceberg of events and causes.
Indeed, there seems to a huge number of animal welfare issues that have been raised recently with some measurable results in favour of our animal friends including:
- changes to the badger cull
- the debate over non stun slaughter
- the woman who saved 1000 dogs from the dog meat trade
- the cessation of the Gadhimai animal slaughter festival
- the stopping of the conservatives plan to reintroduce hunting with dogs
- and of course, the infamous disgust at the slaughter of Cecil the lion
Is this guttural public reaction to animal welfare issues a good or a bad thing?
It is so easy to just hit like and share and it has now become an acceptable expression of compassion with celebrities from Ricky Gervais through to Arnold Schwarzenegger all jumping on the bandwagon.
But the commentators are often poorly informed on the issues and are shooting from the hip so does this invalidate the results? Is it a good thing to have a say based on emotions and sometimes limited evidence and knowledge?
Before social media the main expression of animal sentiment was wildlife programmes or documentaries and there was no opportunity to make a comment.
Back when I was just starting my profession, it would be preposterous for the veterinary profession to admit to genuine expressions of compassion towards animals – I recall being verbally torn apart by my interviewers for Royal Vet College when I admitted sympathy for vegetarians and opposition to hunting. However, recently the profession has embraced animal welfare issues and has pushed for compassion towards badgers and to ban non stun slaughter of animals.
This social media phenomenon, which is still very recent, has made some major inroads into improving animal welfare and it is only just getting started.
We say long may this shift continue
and let the public express their love and emotions towards their fellow animals and let’s hope that Cecil’s needless death leads to the considerable improvement in the quality of life for animals all over the world – just today it was announced that Zimbabwe has banned trophy hunting after 1 million sign a petition. The lion is such a beautiful creature and is the symbol of strength, royalty and bravery in many cultures and perhaps the violation of this symbol has shocked the world into a genuine shift of consciousness.
All this as a result of tweeting, sharing and liking. Think of all the animals’ lives that have been saved from inhumane torture. Trust your feelings and express your outrage, caring and compassion. You do not need to be an expert to understand suffering and pain. Hopefully the world for all animals will become a better place, click by click, like by like…
Dane Walker MA VetMB GPCert(SAS) MRCVS