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Kelly Slater Responds To Reunion Shark Cull Criticism

In these hyper-critical, hyper-partisan times, somebody that occupies the role of "celebrity's" voice becomes considerably more polarising and has a reach upwards of 1.9m (in regards to Kelly).

When Kelly Slater waded into the conversation concerning the most recent fatal shark attack on Reunion Island it started with a relatively innocuous comment on Jeremy Flores’ Instagram feed. In the comment, which has now made headlines on news outlets around the world, Slater called for the French government to pursue an aggressive shark cull around the island. A controversial subject already, given Slater’s passionate dedication to ocean conservation, his words ignited a robust backlash. Irony twisted its knife further when Slater’s brand, OuterKnown, released a video for a campaign entitled, “It’s Not OK,” in which Slater vocally advocated for the protection of the world’s oceans. The company has committed to donating 100 percent of sales from the line to charities working in the field of ocean conservation.


Facing a vocal reaction, Slater came back swinging. To his credit, and indicative of his desire to better understand subjects he feels passionately about, he responded on Instagram, saying, “Please say what you feel you need to say to me below. I promise I’ll read all the comments and respond if I can.”

“My heart is in the right place, but now I am being vehemently attacked by the people I have most identified with for the majority of my life,” he continued.

In recent years, the 11-time world champion’s preferred medium with communicating to the public has been via Instagram. Not totally unlike the current 45th President of the United States use of Twitter, the social media platform allows him to talk directly to his fans while manicuring his words specifically to his liking. Granted, the messaging and reasons for using social media couldn’t be more divergent, but the ability to get the message out without pushback of “the media” is a powerful tool enjoyed by both.

Slater cites his track record as a proponent for the environment to explain, or perhaps justify, his shark culling statement.

“I have been an environmental activist and voice for more campaigns than I can remember. I’ve worked with Rhinos in South Africa to bring awareness and education to the poaching issues they experience. I've been a vocal opponent to #SharkFinning and find it a despicable practice which has no place in our world. I’ve worked with the @bosfoundation and raised funds for the protection and awareness around the plight of the Orangutans. I want to become vegan due to the treatment and slaughter of the most defenceless and innocent animals on this planet,” wrote Slater. 

He also noted the environmental stance of OuterKnown, saying, “I produce clothing from discarded fishing nets to help clean up the mess left behind by the fishing industry.”

Wherever one falls on the culling issue, Slater nails it when he adds, “Humans are the biggest threat to life on earth as most creatures know it. But they are also the most capable and able to fix the issues we face.”

More than anything, this little social media flurry is strong evidence that the world would be better served if people were able to come together, communicate articulately and offer constructive criticism and solutions—rather than the immediate finger-wagging frenzy common of today.

“Attacking me will do no good in the conversation that will continue to need to happen for resolution around this topic. I have never personally killed even a single shark in my lifetime and am not fronting an effort to do so,” wrote Kelly. “So say what you need to say and let’s get on with where this needs to go. Maybe something good will come of it.”

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