You’ve all met Cecil

Hunting - image of Cecil the Lion at the Hwange National Park

Cecil the Lion; recognisable due to the dark streak in his mane

Now a bit of a celebrity among conservationists and animal lovers. Cecil was part of a study being run by Oxford University; which meant he was being monitored and wearing a tracking collar.

In July 2015 Cecil was lured out of his home in the Hwange National Park and shot with a bow and arrow. The culprit; an American dentist called Walter Palmer. Bad move, Walter.

The internet went mad. Many people called for Palmer’s arrest and the Zimbabwe government is trying to extradite him from the USA to face charges. Oh, and this happened;


When is hunting legal?

Ernest Hemingway with the dead corpse of a lion

Hunting is legal in many countries

Hunting lions in Zimbabwe is not actually illegal. In fact, they aren’t even a protected species. But hunters must have a permit issued by the government in order to hunt.

Reuters reports that the killing of Cecil was illegal because the land owner did not have a permit to hunt a lion. Palmer claims he thought the hunt was legal – and that he’d left the organising of permits to his guides. Palmer had paid £32,000 to go on a hunt. With that kind of money, you’d expect everything to be above board.

Poaching = illegal hunting

If you hear someone talking about poaching; they’re not talking eggs. Poaching is the term for hunting without the permission of whoever owns the land. Elephants are often targeted by poachers as their ivory tusks are very expensive.

So, if Palmer illegally killed Cecil the lion does that make him a poacher? Either way, he’s in big trouble.


Should we really blame hunters?

Delta Airlines Aeroplane - Hunting Cecil the Lion

Delta Airlines now ban the transportation of “trophies”

After all, Walter Palmer believed he was playing by the rules. If he’s telling the truth, then he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong. The people responsible are the governments which allow legal hunting, and also companies which make it easy for hunters to transport their prize home.

Campaign group Sum Of Us is pushing for airlines to ban the transportation of dead animals which belong to endangered species.

Their argument is simple – Hunters usually take the head, or even the whole body of their kill home as a prize. If the hunters can’t transport their prey home, then they will have less motivation to kill.


Join the Sum of Us campaign to ban the transport of endangered species

The campaign recently scored a win when airline company Delta, who announced they would ban transportation of lions along with other endangered species. This follows Emirates, United and American Airlines who made a similar announcement earlier this year. Yes most commercial airlines are involved. 


Can hunting actually help endangered species?

Image of a White Rhino, nearly extinct due to over-hunting

Did hunting save the White Rhino?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe warns that the African Lion could be extinct by 2050. It’s estimated there are only 20,000-32,000 African lions in existence – about 50% less than there were three decades ago. So why do some countries allow hunting?

When the White Rhino was nearly extinct at the start of the 20th century, landowners were encouraged to protect and breed them – then release them back into the wild. The landowners would then make money charging hunters for hunting permits. In this instance, it did help to boost the numbers of Rhinos… but at the end of the day, the animals were being bred to be killed.

Some also argue the money paid by big game hunters can be used to further help conservation. Animals will die eventually so why not let an older creature be killed – using the money to stop illegal poachers? The government can also regulate the amount of permits given out – controlling the number of animals which are killed.

Safari in Kenya

Would banning hunting lead to less tourism?

But does the money actually end up going towards stopping poachers? Countries like Namibia are good at showing where the money is used, others such as Zimbabwe are less transparent.

10% of Zimbabwe’s income is due to tourism. Without hunting, would this amount drop? Hunting permits are also sold for animals which aren’t endangered (think; zebras), meaning that in some cases the country selling the permit is getting money without losing a protected animal.

Win-win, right? Perhaps not, as either way animals end up being killed for sport.


The government has a choice; charge money for hunting permits, train rangers to catch poachers and use the money to protect the rest of the species. Or they can ban all hunting, which won’t really stop the poachers from trying.

It’s not all about money though. Every animal is part of the food chain – and removing animals for sport disrupts the chain – and this affects all the other animals. Killing Cecil the lion might mean that other endangered species might live a little longer (as Cecil is no longer around to eat them). However a recent study in Science Magazine shows how removing one link from the chain could cause big problems down the line. The loss of lions and other predators in an area could lead to a rise in the numbers of baboons. Baboons are known to spread into areas occupied by humans… bringing nasty parasites with them. So you see how it all connects?


How can we stop poaching?

Drones are being used to stop hunting by poachers

Drones may be the key to stopping poachers

Of course, not everyone agrees with the arguments above. So, apart from staying on the look out for poachers, are there other methods of stopping illegal hunting?

New technology might be the answer. Several park rangers are experimenting with drones. They are used to spot poachers –and so far it seems to work. Other research is looking into the patterns of where poaching occurs. Scientists will attempt to predict where the next incidents are likely to take place. Who said science is boring, huh?

Other conservationists are staining the tusks of Rhinos and Elephants. The dye is harmless to the animal, but makes humans become sick. This means the tusks are useless for medicine (what they are usually used for) and the number of hunted animals is decreasing.

Countries like Kenya and South Africa are taking the military option. However the risk of being caught doesn’t seem to stop poachers. When the number of rangers patrols increased, so did the number poachers. The poachers also started to bring AK-47s to protect themselves – and aren’t afraid to use them. Maybe it’s time for a new plan?


Hunting Explained? If we want hunting to stop, maybe we should question the governments who make it legal, rather than attacking a dentist who thought he was obeying the rules.

Six Ways Wimbledon Is Just Like Politics

Wimbledon; It’s that time of year again.

Love tennis or not everyone loves the excuse to sit in the sun and drink Pimms*. But did you know Wimbledon is actually just like British Politics?

*other gin based drinks are available  😉


1) Backwards and Forwards

Cats watch the tennis wimbledon on television looking backwards and forth

Danger; watching Wimbledon may lead to hypnosis

This way. That way. Forwards and backwards. Watch Wimbledon coverage and you’ll see the spectators swinging their heads from side to side following the balls.

Watching the TV election debates or live streams from parliament it can seem a little similar. Politicians bounce ideas and arguments backwards and forth across the House of Commons chamber.

And then the next day they do it all over again.

And again.


2) There can only be one winner

Sorry, Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband's defeat face. A little like reaching the semi-final of Wimbledon and crashing out.

Oh, Ed.

Tim Henman, our thoughts are also with you.


3) Most of the work is done behind the scenes

When Andy Murray walks onto centre court at Wimbledon we see a superhuman athlete taking on overwhelming odds and winning (most of the time). What we don’t see are the months of training regimes, diets, sacrifice and general pain that leads to the winning.

Wimbledon ball boy catches the ball after it is hit by a player

Smooth moves.

It’s just the same in politics. Most MPs spend a few years working their way up from the bottom before making any headway. Proposed new laws like the Snooper’s Charter spend months being researched and written up before another party (in this case the Liberal Democrats) blocked it. But now the Conservatives are back in power, the Snooper’s Charter is back on the agenda.

Just like Civil Servants (who help MPs with work but are not linked to a specific party) Ball Boys and Girls are expected to help play run as smoothly as possible, whilst staying out of the limelight.


4) Shooting your mouth off will get you into trouble

Wimbledon player Andy Murray gets angry


“You cannot be serious!” was John McEnroe’s famous cry of outrage. Just like Tennis political debates can get… heated.

More recently Andy Murray got into trouble after the BBC was forced to apologise for his swearing. For politicians something as simple as a tweet can get you into hot water. Less than 140 characters were enough to cost Emily Thornberry her job in the shadow cabinet. #Fail


5) Tradition is everything

Strawberries; a Wimbledon classic

Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberries and Cream. Pimms and Lemonade. Wimbledon is steeped in tradition. The reason players always wear white at Wimbledon and not at other tennis tournaments? Tradition, that’s why.

You’d expect nothing less from the oldest Tennis tournament in the world.

British politics is also known for its old-fashioned approach. In the House of Commons chamber MPs are actually not allowed to speak to one another directly. They refer to each other as “The Right Honourable Gentleman or Lady” and can only speak to The Speaker.

MPs are also not allowed to accuse another MP of lying whilst in the House. At Wimbledon clapping is only allowed after a point is won; total silence is supposed to be respected whilst a point is played. In Parliament clapping is not allowed at all; as some SNP MPs found out.

Queueing for tickets is another Wimbledon staple. Many tennis fans wait from 5AM in order to secure day tickets. Wimbledon top tip; if you have to queue, send a parent whilst you have a lie in.

The number one Wimbledon tradition; rain

Yay, British Weather!

Parliament is no different; there are not enough seats for all 650 MPs. This major fail means that MPs have to reserve their seats early in the morning. Tradition dictates that certain older MPs should get first dibs. However, as the SNP showed Labour recently, rules are meant to be broken.

In fact most of the things we take for granted in British politics are actually just tradition, not written in law. This is because we don’t actually have a written constitution; an ultimate law for the country.



6) It can be brutal.

Ed Miliband's reaction to crashing out of politics like Tim Henman out of Wimbledon

Oh, Ed.

One minute you’re riding high; with victory within your grasp. And then suddenly it’s all over. You’re lying in the dust, not quite sure how it happened. And just like that your journey is over.

Sorry, Ed Miliband. Again.

Just like in Wimbledon, setbacks can come out of no-where. An unexpected fall for a tennis player could lead to an injury. And depending on the luck of the draw you can find yourself up against friend and family.

The Williams sisters Serena and Venus have battled it out in 25 matches. Serena has the edge, having beat Venus 14 times.

Two siblings fighting it out for the top spot knowing that only one of them could win? Is it just us or does this sound a bit like when Ed Miliband beat his brother David to the Labour Leadership?

Ed Miliband and David Miliband in "The Wrong Miliband". They were up against each other a bit like the Williams siblings at Wimbledon

Oh, Ed.

Sorry, David Miliband.


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GCSE Reform: Proof that we are too old to say we miss school

Education is getting a shake-up. GCSE reform is just one of the governments latest plans to improve the school system. Here are some major changes to education over the years; we’ll leave it to you to work out if things are better or worse.


1) GCSE reform means tougher exams?

Education GCSE reform means calculators may be used for more than writing "boobs"

Wait, what?

New changes announced by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan mean students will have to work harder to get a pass. The traditional A-G grading system is being replaced by a 1-9 numbered system. 

9 is high, 1 is low. Should it not be the other way round?

Anyway students will now have to get a grade 5 to pass; the same as a low B or high C grade. Prior to GCSE reform a normal C grade was still considered a pass. So things are gonna be tougher; now are you glad you’re not at school anymore?


How long will it be before students are attempting to get the grades 5,3,1,8,0,0 and 8 in different subjects, so that they can turn their results paper upside down to spell “BOOBIES”?!


2) Sex Education

Sex Education - will this change under GCSE reform?

Awks. Maybe a GCSE reform on Sex Ed should be top of the agenda.

Back when you little things were innocent. It was pretty racy to be holding someones hand, or passing them a note.

In a piece for the Open University Professor Michael Reiss explains how sex education was very limited before World War Two.

Before that girls were tutored on self-control and modesty, whereas boys were taught about the temptations of “factory life”. Because it’s obvious that to lose your virginity you go to a factory, right?

Today, with high numbers of Sexting in schools maybe it’s a good thing that kids have all the factsBut is it possible sex education can go to far? Recently it was reported that Harvard University is now going to give an Anal Sex workshop as part of their Sex Week Program. Yes, that’s right. Anal 101. Maybe the UK government should have included foreplay lessons in the GCSE reform plan. Just kidding. 


3) University U-Turns

Back in the good old days university was free. You could even get grants to help pay for living costs. The Labour government spoiled things slightly by bringing in tuition fees. Which were then raised by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition. Guys, you really don’t need to try to out-do each other.

Education is a pricey one - university tuition fees are on the rise.


Despite the increase more young people are applying to university; in 2013, nearly 50% of young people were going. This was the highest amount on record.

Whether people are going to study or just for the cheap booze and banter is hard to tell. But the debt is going up, up, up. Some worry this will lead to people being priced out of an education.

Forget GCSE reform; is it time we had a reform of tuition fees?


4) Girl Power

Education GCSE reform An image of Emma Watson as Hermione in the Harry Potter Series

Five Points to Gryffindor

The days of Home Economics, where girls were taught how to cook and clean, are long gone.

What ever your views on feminism, things have drastically changed. Subjects are no longer specified for girls or boys.

In the past boys and girls were kept separated; people thought that girls would struggle academically compared to boys. Now, academically girls are outperforming boys at GCSE level.


5) #NewTechology

education gcse reform. An image from the TV show the IT crowd

Can your fancy coding tricks stop a fire? Wait, they can? Get outta here.

Typewriting lessons were once considered pretty rad. Computers arrived; they were for playing snake and creating presentations with clip art (a great way of not doing much and making it look awesome).

Now kids in secondary school are being taught how to code from an early age. Children use video, online tools and photoshop. Interactive online lessons have become popular; though so far this hasn’t meant we can work from home.

But… what happens to people who aren’t tech-savvy? If you’re a millennial who just missed out on the coding revolution; start crying, we’re screwed.


6) No more beatings.

Education GCSE reform - image of Bart Simpson writing lines from TV show the Simpsons

Only 257 lines to go.

You might think your teachers are tough on you, but in the past it was a lot worse.

In the past, you could expect to be beaten if you stepped out of line. The practice of hitting misbehaving students with canes was still allowed until 1986. Mental, huh?

Now as attitudes have changed new rules to protect students are much, much stricter. Punishments are often designed to make students think about what they’ve done wrong. Does this mean children are less likely to misbehave?

As well as knowing you’re not going to be beat up, student’s mental wellbeing is monitored by teaching staff. It’s hard deciding which topics should be included in a GCSE reform; exam board AQA have decided to take suicide off their education curriculum as it was too upsetting.


What we learned; if you’re 23/24, looks as if our kids are going to be screwing up their faces when when we mention GCSE’s, just like we did when our parents told us about O Levels. Welcome to the adult world.

Are schools better than they were in the past? Is the GCSE reform a good idea? What more needs to be done to improve our education system?


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Cheaters gonna cheat: Doping and Performance Enhancing Drugs Explained

Performance Enhancing Drugs = Drugs to enhance your performance.

doping performance enhancing drugs, hormones cause big muscles, man pretends to have muscles attractive woman joins him on screen

Hormone Growth increase muscle size…#bodygoals

It’s in the name.

Athletes use Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) to improve sporting performance. They are also given to racing animals like horses and dogs. Like Viagra; but for sport.

There are many different types of PEDs. Peptide Hormones and Human Growth Hormone increase muscle size. So these are your poisons of choice if you want big guns and extra strength.
Anabolic Agents generate testosterone. This is a sex hormone and has an effect on growth. It’s also what causes men to get aggressive and competitive. Rawr.

To quote “That’s Dope”

doping performance enhancing drugs, dope doping, little cartoon dog sits on a chair with dope hat on his head looking sad

Doping in sport is illegal and can have some serious side effects! DOPE!

Blood Doping refers to techniques which increase the amount of red blood cells in the body, these cells contain oxygen. More oxygen means better stamina and performance. This helps in long endurance sports like cycling or long distance running.

The Blood Doping process adds more Erythropoietin (EPO). This is a hormone created naturally in the body which creates more red blood cells. Another method is to inject new fresh blood into the body that already contains more red blood cells. You go stronger, for longer. #Winning

If you’re using PEDs, expect the Feds

Doping and Performance Enhancing Drugs give an unfair advantage to those who use them. So you won’t be surprised to hear they are illegal in sport.

Part of the problem is that new drugs are constantly cooked up. Doping tests check your blood and urine for traces of drugs. However if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for it can be easy to miss things.

Athletes can also dodge the tests by using diuretics, which boost the production of urine to flush the drugs out of the system after they have competed. Oh, it’s a glamorous life.


Are Performance Enhancing Drugs dangerous?

doping performance enhancing drugs, doping is illegal and if you are caught you could have your medals taken away, baby is scared and looks very cute and sad

Is taking Performance Enhancing Drugs worth the risk of loosing your medals?

Take Performance Enhancing Drugs and you risk serious damage to your body. Acne, liver damage, impotence and depression are just a few of the side effects. Also how does losing your sight, severe migraines and the possibility of a heart attack entice you?

Doping has its own risks such as contracting a virus from a blood transfusion.

And if you’re caught Doping or taking Performance Enhancing Drugs you risk losing all your titles and a long ban from the sport. Those medals better be worth it.

Why are we talking about this?

This week the coach of Olympic medal winner Mo Farah has been accused of Doping activity. Farah himself has not been implicated; he pulled out of a race to fly to the USA to get some answers.

One of the most famous cases of sport Doping was with Lance Armstrong. Seven times winner of cycling contest Le Tour De France; he was dogged by allegations of Doping throughout his career. With Armstrong it was a case of you can ride, but you can’t hide. His illegal activities got busted after years of investigations. Armstrong was given a lifetime ban from professional cycling and his titles were stripped from him. He also lost all his sponsorship deals pretty much overnight, which he describes as a “75 million dollar day”. Ouch.


Is there an argument for Doping?

doping performance enhancing drugs, everyone is doing it, man jumps on a literal bandwagon

Lance, just because everyone is doing it… doesn’t mean you have to jump on the bandwagon!

One of Lance Armstrong’s excuses was that everyone was doing it. Sounds like a poor excuse, but if you want to be in sport, you want to win; and if the winners are all using PEDS, it’s easy to see how competitors might be convinced to try.

Nowadays anti-drug operations in sport have increased. Random drugs tests are the norm. Most sports demand that competitors give exact details of their whereabouts and be available for a spot-check at all times . But is this enough?




The word on the street

Twitter reaction to doping and performance enhancing drugs

Twitter storm on the new doping allegations

Learnings: Doping is nothing to do with smoking Weed.

Would you use Performance Enhancing Drugs in order to win?