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Hunter Shaming is a Real Thing; Kendall Jones Won’t Be the Last Target

by Ben O'Brien   |  July 11th, 2014 16

shaming_Feature_2I sat at the bar in Dallas, Texas, a few months back, enjoying an adult beverage with a fellow hunter and gun owner. We were deep in conversation. One of the best conversations any grown man can have. We were finalizing the glorious details of a possible trip to Africa. Which caliber would we take? What were the possible plains game species we would target? The list goes on.

Before long a college-age young lady decided to interrupt our fun. She clearly had been drinking: red eyes that carried a vague look of desperation and what seemed to be a partial lack of fine motor skills. She looked a bit like the living version of a Lindsay Lohan mug shot.

Clearly pissed, she sat down at our table in a huff.

“Do you guys kill zebras,” she blurted. “Zebrassssss are endangered!”

Before she even uttered the final syllable in this declaration of ignorance, it occurred to me that this girl was most likely impervious to logic. That’s the only way she had survived in this incubated state for 20 or so years.

“Hunters are evil!” she roared. “You kill endangered animals for fun!”

Before I could collect my jaw from the floor and dispense this young lady with facts and figures, one of her benevolent friends swooped in and scooped her up from the table.

“Sorry, guys,” he offered. “She does this all the time. She’s really into ‘hunter shaming.’”

(Picture this young man actually making the air quotes around “hunter shaming.”)

I was left speechless as the group moved away toward a downstairs bar. It was clear, I thought, that alcohol had fueled this girl’s misguided rage, as no sane young woman would ever approach two strange men at a bar and go straight for verbal fisticuffs…almost as if it was option No. 1.

Those kind of antics are normally reserved for the safe haven of the Internet. Which, coincidentally, is where the term “hunter shaming” first made an appearance.

Target: Kendall Jones
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas cheerleader, actually vaguely looks like the sober, responsible version of the young girl that approached us in the bar that night. Which is filled with all sorts of irony, as it is Jones that has been the most recent target of hunter shaming on a national scale.

After returning from an African safari, Kendall shared her pride on social media along with photos of a leopard, lion, elephant, and rhino (which was darted for veterinary reasons, not killed).

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Zimbabwe and can’t wait until the day I get to come back,” Jones posted. “Zimbabwe has some of the most beautiful scenery of anywhere I have ever been and Victoria Falls is truly a wonder of the world.”

The public knew little of the Cleburne native at that juncture, and we still really only know what she has told us through social media.

She began hunting at age nine with her father on a trip to Zimbabwe, and was immediately engaged with the sport. From there, Jones lived every hunter’s dream. She took home plains game trophies and most of the Big Five.

“Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to take a leopard on this trip, so I returned 2 weeks later for another 14-day safari,” Jones wrote on Facebook. “This time I got my leopard, and also took down a hippo to get 6 of the Dangerous 7 at the age of 14!”

Soon, the antis discovered her posts and things erupted.

We’ve seen this all before: A change.org petition has nearly 150,000 signatures as of today hoping to ban Jones from Africa. Facebook is flooded with pages created specifically to hate on Jones. One called “Kill Kendall Jones” had about 400 likes.

The reaction was swift from Facebook. They removed Kendall’s images under their standards and practices policy. What was the reason?

“We remove reported content that promotes poaching of endangered species, the sale of animals for organized fight or content that includes extreme acts of animal abuse,” officials said.

National TV outlets soon began debating the situation, of course, without presenting the whole story. The waters became ever-so muddy as the death threats rolled in for Kendall.

This is a carbon copy of the Melissa Bachman scandal of recent vintage. Bachman, a famed television host and outdoor personality, was shamed by antis after a photo of her following a South African lion hunt was posted on Facebook.

Jones, a sophomore majoring in marketing and sports therapy at Texas Tech University, is a much younger target, but that’s really the only difference. She was participating in legal, CITES sanctioned hunts that bring an influx of money and attention to the local economy.

The facts have remained the same through all of the recent hunter shaming scandals: If managed correctly, hunting is a solution for Africa, not the problem.

If you haven’t already, please take a look at “Saving Lions by Killing Them,” a piece written by Alexander N. Songorwa, the director of wildlife for the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

If you’re curious about the plight of the rhino and how hunting plays into population regrowth, read the IUCN 11-page document entitled “Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives.”

These articles dole out the facts. Hunting creates value, value leads to conservation, and conservation leads to the propagation of wild game populations. Bottom line.

But this is no longer about presenting only facts or dissecting Jones’s situation blow by blow; that’s been done. This is about identifying a rather horrifying trend in our culture and working together to fight back.

The science of conservation and the effect of hunting on Africa’s wildlife and economy is pretty much set in stone. The only variation has been the level of ignorance and anger pointed in its direction.

Defining the Attacks
As hunters let’s be clear: This isn’t the first time or the last time that some outside-of-the-stereotype hunter will face this kind of harassment. In fact, this is only going to get worse. The anti-hunting faction, especially the zealots, has been forever emboldened by the success they’ve had on social media. Almost as if Pavlov and his dog had called it, these people have been trained by the world to believe that death threats will be publicly tolerated by most, and hatred met with more hatred equals attention…and that attention brings results.

Victims are not chosen at random. They’re soft targets and, more importantly, they’re “easy” for the public to hate. Why only photos of Caucasian women with dead African game? The non-hunting public sees a dead lion and thinks “Simba.” They see Kendall Jones and they think “brainwashed by evil hunters.” Most commonly, they think, “Why?”

It seems that in this world of hyper public relations sensitivity that excessive negative PR always adds up to the desired outcome for the dissenters, even if that negative attention is from a small group, if the target is doing nothing wrong/illegal, or if the criticism is in most ways unwarranted. Hunter shaming exists in this vacuum…and it works.

The Facebook page “Kill Kendall Jones” was allowed to stay public for over a week after the site had removed photos of her hunts in Africa. There is no need to review the hypocrisy here. It’s obvious.

Look a little deeper and you’ll find that hunter shaming is rooted in its ability to distract the media and those it influences from the real problem: the lack of factual information in this debate.

By the time hunters come rushing in with figures and conservation data, it’s already too late. Nobody cares. The uproar is the focus. Memes with cartoon lions flood the Internet, “news” reporters on national TV incorrectly label animals endangered or just have the species dead wrong. Craig Boddington doles out facts on Fox News and the article gets a fraction of the attention (literally one tenth of the shares) of a non-factual, smear job on Buzzfeed.

It was too late for Craig and the facts; the lowest common denominator had already taken hold, and those non-hunters that were so invested initially had lost interest after that first Facebook outburst.

Bachman, Jones, and their peers are only the tip of the iceberg in what is now a legitimate trend. The question is this: Will we continue to be reactionary in the face of hunter shaming?

I think it’s time we stand up on a daily basis and answer the question posed by our detractors: “Why?”

In fact, as I’m writing this, another young woman is embroiled in hunter shaming. A 17-year-old Belgian girl plucked from obscurity at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, landed a lucrative modeling contract after her beauty went viral. Now she’s going viral for another, more negative reason…she’s also a hunter.

“Hunting is not a matter of life or death,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “It’s much more important than that.”

  • HL Brugman

    >> If managed correctly, hunting is a solution for Africa, not the problem. <<Yes, very right. But not by anyone carrying a firearm. It is a pity seeing testosterone poisoned people running of to Africa to prove manhood. Its not a pity, its silly.

    • Matthew Michael Thomas

      They are not Elmer Fudd! They are not handed a gun the moment they step off the plane to start shooting anything they see. There are guides and rules, and specie limits for every area, for every farm, for everything. Not to mention women don’t have a pile of testosterone nor manhood the same as you have no common sense.

    • jan stander

      Well folks. I am from Zimbabwe and our opinion should be all that matters when our heritage is in question. Who gives anyone else the right to dictate to us what we do with our animals. Hunting pays so it stays. Ban it and we will cull what is a threat to our cattle and to our crops. Decide carefully. And do your homework. There are national parks for the photo safaris and they are being carried by the funds raised from hunting. Ban it and the whole system will collapse.

  • Concerned Animal Lover

    So, you’re basically exploiting the poor economic status of a country and taking advantage of the fact that they need your money more than they need a leopard? I understand know.

    • Ben O’Brien

      You’re statement might be correct if it wasn’t Africa itself and CITES that have studied the conservation benefits of these hunts and allowed them to go forward. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
      Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments.
      Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild
      animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

      You make it sound as if we are somehow taking advantage of Africa and it’s poor economy. No, not even close. They WANT to attract American hunters.

      Here’s what Alexander N. Songorwa, director of wildlife for the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, had to say on the lion debate:

      “Tanzania has regulated hunting for decades; female and younger lions are completely protected, and the hunting of males is limited by quotas set for each hunting area in the country. We recently made it illegal to
      hunt male lions younger than 6 years old to ensure that reproductively
      active animals remained with their prides. And proposed amendments to
      our wildlife law would further crack down on the export of lions taken
      illegally, penalize hunting companies that violated our rules and reward
      those that complied.

      Africa, of course, is endowed with a tremendous wealth of wildlife, and
      Tanzania has been particularly blessed. We have roughly 130,000
      elephants, two of Africa’s three largest populations of wild dogs, and
      spectacular landscapes like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Mount
      Kilimanjaro. We have placed nearly a third of our land in national
      parks, game reserves and wildlife management areas.”

      • Concerned Animal Lover

        I understand that they WANT to attract wealthy hunters, because their economy NEEDS the money. But I still stand by my opinion that there are other ways to work towards conservation aside from killing endangered animals (and no, I’m not talking about the zebras lol). And please don’t confuse my stance on this particular instance with my opinion of hunting in general. My family has been South Florida hunters for years, but we eat what we kill. I DO NOT agree with killing simply to prove your alpha status over an animal. Try going up against that leopard without your rifle and we shall see who comes out alive.

        • Ben O’Brien

          Again, I presented you with some facts and sourced quotes and you presented me with an opinion based little to no knowledge of the challenges Africa and its animals face. An emotive response instead of an intellectual one.

          What are the other ways to work towards conservation aside from hunting?

          What other pursuits will stop the poaching of lions and rhinos and other game animals that teeter on the brink of endangerment? How much money will these pursuits bring in?

          The game farm enterprise was created to help aid the wildlife population, conserve habitat, deter poachers and bring in revenue to local economies. In 1964 only three game farms existed in South Africa holding 575,000 game animals, reports the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa.As the groundwork was laid for more game farms wildlife became more valuable, “creating a direct incentive to purchase, own, protect and conserve it.” Today those early efforts have exploded into an over $85
          million enterprise that is home to 20 million head of game on 40 million acres. The industry employs 100,000 people and owns three times more land than all the state-owned parks and reserves combined.

          This kind of effort will not be supported by wildlife watchers and tourists.

          • Concerned Animal Lover

            The loss of habitat and breaking up of populations by man-made constructions are the main factors threatening their numbers. But humans are greedy little bastards and tend to skew perceptions/wording of numbers and data to back our personal desires.

            http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130802-lions-trophy-hunting-extinction-opinion-animals-africa-conservation/

            https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-trophy-hunting-now/the-myth-of-trophy-hunting-as-conservation/113648248684575

            ^^I can copy and paste cited articles too, that doesn’t make you almighty. There’s arguments to both sides of every story. Don’t be so foolish as to think that every article you read that supports your view is unbiased. And at this point I digress because I have backed you into a corner and I can tell by your nasty tone that you are getting emotionally desperate. Have a wonderful life. I will never stop fighting for what is morally right.

          • Britspanman

            Concerned Animal Lover is a misnomer, Irrational American Urbanite is more appropriate. Just how do you plan to change the effects of human overpopulation on other animal and plant species. The greatest minds in the world have not been able to achieve it. We are at 7.6 billion people and climbing, usurping, polluting and ultimately collapsing the ability of this planet to sustain life as we know it. You are concerned, but, how real is your contribution to saving or even delaying the inevitable result.

          • Ben O’Brien

            I cited articles written not by activists, as Mr. Flocken claims to be, but by legitimate individuals on the ground floor of this issue or completely unbiased conservationists who study these issues daily. The top article you cited, which I have read many times, says this:

            “While habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict (often in the form of
            retaliatory killings after lions kill livestock and sometimes even
            humans) are the primary causes of the lions’ disappearance from Africa’s
            forests and savannahs, trophy hunting adds to the problem.”

            Trophy hunting is not the primary reason, Flocken even admits it. So to save the lion, we would attack the tertiary source of the danger to their population? This makes no sense. When the officials in Tanzania are calling for the opposite. Money from hunting is used to solve problems No. 1 and No. 2. As it is used to fund the fight against poaching and create and fence in habitat where healthy populations are viable and can be controlled and managed.

  • jan stander

    Did anyone of the arrogant antis ask the people whose heritage is in question what they think. Ban hunting and we will have cattle in the areas overnight. There are already some of the non hunting areas infested with livestock. Do your homework before you involve yourself in things that you really have no business in.

    • Concerned Animal Lover

      I understand that hunting is a solution to keep the wealthy satisfied and help the people of the particular country. I do understand that. My opinion is that it is not the best way. And I understand that the people want, need, and derserve a better economy in their country but there are other ways to accomplish this. Simply an opinion. And unfortunately, humans are selfish creatures and would sacrifice almost anything to better themselves and their families no matter the cost to the living beings around us.

      • Concerned Animal Lover

        And to add, every living creature on this planet is my business. In Genesis God put us on this Earth to tend to the needs of his creatures. And I have a tender heart towards animals on top of that.

        • Ben O’Brien

          Fact: Stop hunters from going to Africa and the animals you love so dearly will die in mass. As they did before the hunting and game farms become prevalent.

          Your opinion is not rooted in the study of the complex cohabitation issue in Africa. It’s based on your love of Africa.

        • schqweezlt

          if you are going to use scripture you should also remember that Peter was told “rise Peter kill and eat” In Acts , and after rebuking, that he was told “do not make unclean what I have made clean”

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