Forget Press Conferences and the lamestream media. They made themselves irrelevant. We have the Internet. The power to inform millions at the touch of a button is unprecedented in human history and we must learn to use it effectively.
Tweets,Tweetdeck,Tweetstorms etc – how important it was to have social media experts assisting us to get our message out. Neytiri and the other social media gurus like Monica Gilbert added a whole new dimension to the event.
Interestingly, the marches generated intense interest from TV and radio. On the day I must have given a dozen TV and radio interviews.
But take note: the media only took an interest after the events had created their own newsworthiness. It was the spectacle of the march that hooked the media; not the serious message that inspired the march.
The way forward
1. The media belatedly came to the party, but the lesson learned is clearly that it is the Internet, not the Press, that will bring the sordid canned hunting industry to an end. Just as the hunting industry lobbyists pump out a stream of propaganda to whitewash the hunting fraternity’s squalid activities, so we need to keep up the pressure by posting relevant context to all our social media. Two can – and must – play at the public relations business.
2. Raising awareness by itself is not enough. Decision makers need to be brought in to the struggle. Not only politicians and conservation officials but also corporate sponsors. If corporate sponsors began transferring their sponsorship away from the big pro-hunting NGO’s like WWF, you can bet that WWF’s policies would change. Money can change the debate.
3. Hard work. Campaigning and lobbying is hard work. But someone has to do it. Volunteers are needed to help take on this task. For example, we could petition airlines not to carry hunting weapons or trophies.
4. Code of practice. We need to collaborate on producing a Code of Practice, based on the five freedoms set out in the UDAW (Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare) which could be adopted by tourism authorities, volunteer placement firms, tour operators and the travel business as an industry standard.
Volunteer organisations who send their clients out to Africa to volunteer at wildlife sanctuaries need to be informed that they are only feeding the hunting industry when they send their clients to unethical destinations.
How does one know if the facility is unethical?
Easy! If the so-called ‘sanctuary’:
a) breeds predators in captivity
b) offers cub petting, or
c) offers lion cubs for volunteers to hand rear, or
d) offers walking with lions
– then avoid it.