If you haven't heard about Cecil the lion who was tragically (and illegally) hunted down by a Minnesota dentist in Zimbabwe, you've managed some form of media blackout and I want to know your secrets.
Before I launch into my concerns about Cecil's death, here are a few facts about me. This site knows me as a fumbling yoga practitioner (who is very much out of practice, but still excellent at fumbling). I am also vegan—by its original definition—for animals (though all the other reasons are great too, animals are what keep me vegan). I also have an environmental science degree from the University of Illinois. I started going to school to become a big cat/exotic animal vet (accepted into the vet program at UIUC even). Due to huge changes in my life I found myself on a different career path, and as a result my largest contribution to society to date is being a graphic designer for nonprofs and socially responsible businesses, or as I like to call myself... A graphic artivist. I am extremely liberal and what some of my friends and family refer to as a dirty hippie. Why dirty, I don't know, I shower. Maybe it's my childish sense of humor when people say "box" or "duty"—anyway!
I have one glaringly, upsetting issue with everything surrounding Cecil's death (outside of his actual death, of course). Activists everywhere are in an uproar. Vegans everywhere even more so. A lot of people are mad because the masses are gathering in disgust over the death of Cecil while simultaneously eating a cheeseburger. Or the masses are gathering in disgust over the death of Cecil while ignoring zero change in gun control after so many shootings or the state of our racist nation or... pick anything wrong really, there's plenty available.
My disgust for media covering Cecil WAY more than any other topic is overwhelming, but this is not an article on crappy media, well, not directly. Nor do I believe the media represents accurately where people stand on these issues. This is an article on why people (mostly animal activists) are aiming their anger at other animal activists.
In the past I've been asked why I don't put my efforts towards homelessness or kids' education, for example, instead of animal activism. That's insulting. I do put efforts towards a lot of issues, but—and because—I'm most passionate about animals. Luckily there are other people who are equally passionate about different issues, thank goodness, because I am only one person. My effort to support one topic in no way means I'm against other topics or taking away from them. In fact, my support of one topic pushes me to educate myself more and seek out ways on how I can help.
And I'm right there with you, vegans, on feeling helpless by people's disconnect to animals in their back yard while connecting with one animal on the other side of the planet. Here's the thing though —criticizing someone not on the exact same page as you will never be the catalyst to opening eyes, minds, and ultimately hearts.
Cecil's death is a moment to uplift people's energy for a positive movement. When you have the masses joining together to fight against trophy hunting, that is a beautiful step towards self-discovery in compassion towards a lot more than one lion. Am I the only one who needed 35 years to become a full-fledged vegan?! Am I the only one who needed multiple learning experiences to truly articulate why I'm a feminist or an LGBT ally or why I promote an egalitarian society in general?! I doubt it. And I can tell you, it wasn't the judgey-mcjudgersons of the world who were my catalysts. It was the patient wisdom of those who led by example and/or were passionate enough to share with me what they learned in a nurturing way. Those who shared through vulnerability instead of anger.
And I'm in no way saying you shouldn't be angry. I'm angry about all of the disconnects too, but shifting attention to those who aren't rebelling exactly the same as you is taking the momentum away from an important movement. Be angry at the dentist. Be angry of the two Zimbabweans who led the illegal hunt. Be mad at poor legislation and law enforcement. Be mad at how sentient beings can be bought and sold in the blink of an eye. And for those us who aren't strictly animal activists, be mad at the media for covering fuzzy animals more than gun control or police brutality or how black lives really do matter and never once referring to the protesters outside a dentist's office as a riot.
Don't be mad at someone who is agreeing with you. Instead connect those who are dipping their toes in animal activism for the first time to other stories, other pursuits, other paths for self-discovery in compassion. Introduce them to inspiring people, maybe the same people who helped you. If they can't make the connection, connect with them. Be vulnerable. Learn from them (just because your forte is animal activism, doesn't mean they can't bring ideas to the table from their own interests/expertise). Share in the experience and lead by example.
Please, if you have other suggestions on how to contribute to a positive catalyst, comment below. I think a safe space for conversation is way better than passive aggressive memes on social media.