Prejudice and ignorance is not the same thing, but prejudice can sometimes lead to the later. In thinking that we are better than other people we sometimes deprive ourselves of new and sometimes invaluable knowledge. I once attended a journalism school where I learned that one of the qualities of a good journalist is curiosity; and one of the worst habits any journalist can have is to draw conclusions based on assumption.
This is exactly what led to the Associated Press’ news story: “Poverty-stricken Malawi feasts on mice“. The content of the story is accurate, no doubt about that. However, the headline is nothing but a distortion based on prejudice.
Had the writer took their time to do simplest of researches, speaking to the mice sellers, for instance, they could have established that the people who buy the mice are the people with some sort of income. In other words, people who are not starving. People that can afford to buy food; they buy mice as a luxury, for the love of it. That is why mice is sold on the roadsides. The idea is to sale the product to the motorists; poor people in Malawi don’t drive. This is a simple logic.
Similarly, mice is consumed in the villages but not as a staple food. In fact, the period when people hunt mice is just after harvest because during this time the mice is everywhere in the corn and groundnuts fields looking to steal farmer’s produce. As it is harvesting time, it means that the people would have enough food to feed themselves. After all, Malawi has had food surplus in the last three harvesting seasons. Eating mice is more of a tradition in Malawi. People with or without food do it.
I applaud the initiative to write stories on small countries as Malawi but I would urge the people involved to do more research and try to understand the topics before jumping into assumption based conclusions. In this case, I am sure the writer already had in mind about the kind of story they wanted to tell. That is why the available facts were ignored.