Elephants need all the protection we can give them. (Photo courtesy of JunglePhotos.com)
A furor has erupted over GoDaddy CEO Bob Parson's video blog in which he shoots an elephant in Zimbabwe. And rightly so. Parson's video cites crop destruction as a reason to kill elephants and so save Zimbabwean farmers from starvation. But it is wrong in so many ways.
It's easy to write off objectors to the killing as "bleeding hearts" and "treehuggers," but there's much more to this than meets the eye. Three key points emerge.
First, the elephant is already threatened from poaching for ivory. Populations have plummeted in the last few decades. Conservationists and land managers are striving to save the species from extinction. There is no good reason to "cull" the species. The loss of even one individual simply hastens the demise of these creatures - Earth's biggest land animal. By making it "okay" to kill an elephant Parsons is undermining the hard work of thousands of scientists, conservationists and policy-makers who are trying to save the species from extinction.
Second, various methods exist to protect farmers and their crops from the depredations of elephants that do not involve killing them. Relocation and fencing are among the alternatives. Compensating villagers for lost crops from ecotourism revenues is another possibility. Mr. Parsons could well have applied his funds to promote these possibilities rather than killing elephants. The video betrays a complete lack of understanding of elephant behavior and ecology. The narrative claims that elephants will not return to areas in which bulls have been killed. But what time frame does this encompass. How long does this supposed deterrent last?
Third, the depiction in the video of villagers hacking at the dead elephant is a demeaning narrative of their plight. The presence of hunger in Zimbabwe can be attributed much more to corruption and greed of in-country oligarchs rather than to marauding elephants. Mr. Parsons could have used his considerable influence to call for social justice for Zimbabwe's poor.
The bottom line is that Bob Parsons as CEO has betrayed an astonishing lack of sensitivity and poor judgment. That said, given GoDaddy's record (e.g., its notorious Super Bowl ads) I am cynical enough to believe that Parsons planned this from the beginning, knowing the anger (and media coverage) he would invoke. If that's the case, such actions are even more reprehensible, illustrating the depths to which someone will descend to get publicity. Nothing less than Parson's resignation or firing will satisfy those who are rightly outraged at such a despicable act.
If you agree, please take a few moments to sign the petition to Tell Go Daddy's CEO: Real Men Don't Kill Elephants
PS To those who might accuse me of being a vegetarian tree-hugger or want to bandy around other labels, here's a response that I posted on a Facebook thread:
It's not a question of whether eating meat is right or not. It's not a question of whether hunting is legal or not. I eat meat. I respect people's right to hunt and bear arms. I do not respect a CEO who chooses to shoot an animal that thousands of others are working to save from extinction. I do not respect a CEO who films the shooting and depicts poor people in a demeaning and exploitative way. Starvation in Zimbabwe is the cause of a despotic corrupt government much more than it is due to rogue elephants. The portrayal of a rich white man lording it over poverty-stricken "natives" smacks of racist neo-colonialism and is poor taste at best, if not downright immoral and unethical. It's not just the fact that he killed an elephant. He chose to film it and use it for PR to promote his sleazy company. For a CEO, it's certainly poor judgment and shows incredible insensitivity. Or perhaps this was all planned, knowing the furor that would erupt and the yummy media attention that he would get. Now THAT's questionable. To those who admire Bob Parsons or take his side, I would suggest that you kindly inform and educate yourselves before judging those who rightly admonish such a thoughtless act.