I believe that educating adolescents and youth is fundamental in changing attitudes and behaviours in any conservation effort. Education not only provides knowledge but also creates a sense of empathy and understanding on a much deeper level. It can also promote activism and justice, particularly in young people who are finding their voices and are so willing to act in ways which may often defy social norms (we often think of these young people as being rebellious; but I like to see them as challenging oppressive existing norms). This is becoming especially true of the captive breeding and hunting industry, which has for many years been covered in a cloak of conservation and good will. Yet, emerging evidence continues to expose an industry characterised by greed, neglect and cruelty.
I must be honest, when I first decided to approach this topic with the students I teach, I was hesitant. I felt they were too young to comprehend the inherent cruelty and I wanted to avoid shattering the commonly held beliefs about something seemingly innocent. And yet the opposite occurred. Whilst the Blood Lions® documentary remains an immense shock to watch, the students took it on with maturity, moving almost immediately towards action with questions like “what can be done to stop it? Why is this allowed in the first place? Surely this is illegal?” These were the hardest questions to answer because such cruelty seems so far-fetched to many of us. The hard-hitting visual elements of the Blood Lions® documentary and its ongoing campaigns illustrate something else I strongly believe in – that video and photography is a powerful means of conveying information and emotion in ways that move people towards change and action.