Guest Blogger: Malena Persson
My name is Malena Persson and I am the Scottish rep for Campaign Against Canned Hunting since Global March for Lions in 2014. I am originally from sunny Sweden but got so charmed by Edinburgh during a holiday that I ended up moving to there. That was 12 years ago. Scotland has become home! I have always loved big cats and specially lions. When I in 2013 saw the image of Melissa Bachman grinning over the dead lion something happened within me. I could no more sit in silence and let monsters like Bachman and other trophy hunters violate nature! I started a project against trophy hunting called ‘Scotland Roars’ and came in touch with Global March For Lions via Twitter. Like most in Scotland I had never heard about canned hunting. I was absolutely shocked and disgusted, and I ended up organizing the Edinburgh march to raise awareness about it. On the day I met many other animal defenders and I decided to carry on campaigning for lions and for a ban on canned hunts in South Africa. Being offered to become a member of CACH was a great honor, and no matter what obstacles the hunting fraternities will put in our path, I will never give up on our beloved lions. A lionheart beats within!
London, 4th November. Parts of the international CACH team found themselves at the World Responsible Tourism Awards. We had travelled from France, Scotland and even all the way from South Africa to be there, and some of us met for the first time. What an excellent place for a first meeting! I had never been to an award ceremony, and I honestly think I was more excited, and had more butterflies, than perhaps Kate Winslet on her very first time at the Academy awards.
CACH was on location to represent South Africa’s captive bred lions, we were there as a voice, a roar, against the atrocious canned hunting industry. You could tell on our smiles how very proud we were that our organisation had been shortlisted for an award for the Best Animal Welfare Initiative. Humbled by the experience, we were extremely happy to have gotten so far, and none of us had expectations of winning, but we truly hoped! In my heart I really longed for a win. Not for any personal gain, simply because I wanted the lions to have that win, a gold star shining for the prides in the heavens. Prides that are growing in numbers as senseless bullets take our lions from this earth.
Naturally everyone in that room wanted to win, and all the nominees clearly deserved to, we were all worthy winners! We were all good doers and change makers. All believers in leading as an example for better futures. But when the award was announced and we realised that the lions had won shared first place, my heart grew with joy. Winning the gold award was a big finger pointing to the lion breeders in South Africa, letting them know that the noise we are making is not falling on deaf ears. The world has started to pay attention. We are growing in numbers, and most important of a all, we are coming together! A worldwide alliance of lion defenders. We would like to see the breeders and hunting farms sweeping that one under the carpet!
Yes! We had made it! Since the first Global March for Lions we had kept stirring the pot, and not let the roars turn silent. As CACH found our feet as an international animal welfare organisation we grew stronger and more confident. We realised that to reach our goal, we had to change our tactics and focus on a part of the canned hunting industry that so far had been left unaffected by protests, demos and online campaigning. A group of us took a step back from trying to achieve change from within South Africa, where our pleads were left ignored and unanswered, and instead we turned an eye to our own countries. This is where many of the volunteers and tourists are from, and it is here they book their trips and projects. If we managed to highlight the importance of responsible travel and ethical volunteering, we could change how the cash stream flows, and instead channel it into worthy causes, instead of all the ongoing scams. We could cut the profits from one of the largest cons in our days – the CONservation programs that keep milking big money from duped volunteers thinking they are raising Cubs that are to be released into the wild, as well as the atrocious cub petting tourism.
We spent many months in conversations with tour operators, and kept long dialogues with volunteer organisations, and we did our very best trying to convince them that now is the time to lead the way. The travel sector needs innovative companies who dare to be ethical. Exploitation of wildlife is a thing of the past. CACH offered these companies a spot on a new feature on our website; an opportunity to be part of a list of ethical travel alternatives. Our view on what’s right and wrong went beyond the plight of lions, our list was a guarantee that no animals were used for human entertainment on the projects advertised by our collaborators. We stood our ground firmly. And it paid off. Our list kept growing. And the hard work was then awarded in London. The lions got the gold, and we got new strength to keep up the good fight, for the love of wildlife!
By changing the way people travel, and by getting volunteers to understand that raising Cubs is not conservation, we really hope to make a financial dent in an industry that causes great harm to our beloved lions, as well as harm to an exceptionally beautiful country. The canned hunting industry is an ill looking mark on the face of South Africa, a foul patch that is spreading like a disease. The number of lion farms are growing. We need to stop this now. And CACH truly believes that if the tourism and volunteering industries allied with us, and put their foot down, then we would have come a long way. Then, and only then, would we have a real chance to help the big cats of South Africa. Lion cubs would no longer be a common photo prop for a social media selfie, and perhaps one day there would finally be no more lions waiting to die!
Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH)
Photo Credits: All photos in this post courtesy of CACH