The Hunting Question

Samara Safari Guide holds up the skull of an oryx, an old kill by resident cheetah (not the product of hunting)

Friends Niki Rust, a large carnivore research PhD candidate (& vegan), and Peter Allison, seasoned safari professional and author of the bestseller ‘Whatever You Do, Don’t Run’ got into a lively debate about the merits and morals of the trophy hunting industry after taking a look at this blog post which highlights the cowardly elements of hunting a lion.

She Thought It Was ‘Cool’ to Hunt a Lion. He proved she was WAY wrong.

With their permission, I’ve quoted a few of their insights here:

NR: Hmm not really representative of the lions that are trophy hunted: the ones at photographic tourism reserves have learnt through generations to be relaxed around vehicles. The ones that are hunted are far FAR from relaxed around vehicles.

PA: Actually the bulk of lions hunted in South Africa are hand-reared, so have no understanding of the dangers humans pose. Many are in fact drugged prior to the ‘hunt’ to stop them loping up to the visitor looking for a treat. The challenge of shooting one of these is equivalent to leaning over your neighbour’s fence and putting a bullet in their Labrador.

NR: Was it confirmed that the lion that Melissa Bachman hunted was in fact a canned lion though?

PA: I’m not sure Niki, but if it was in SA (as opposed to Botswana which has subsequently banned hunting, or Zambia which has done the same) it most likely was – there simply isn’t the space in SA any more for hunting areas large enough for lions, so they are either imported for the event or taken from areas that double as game viewing for the rest of the year (such as Timbavati).

NR: I guess before we all jump to the wrong conclusions, it’s always good to get facts correct. After all, there is plenty of evidence out there to show that trophy hunting can benefit conservation – and that canned lion hunting can benefit wild lion conservation:

Cite: Hunting is not Poaching & Can Help Conserve Wildlife

PA: Yeah… I agree on facts, but you also have to be careful to ascertain who funds the writing. I’m all for balanced argument but in cases like climate change the small number of dissenters are given the same amount of airtime as the 99 percent plus of scientists who want to get on with fixing things rather than arguing a moot point. I’m yet to meet a serious conservationist that believes trophy hunting, or worse yet canned hunting is a viable part of any long term effort to save lions.

Let me put it this way – if I was to argue that sex tourism has increased the livelihood of many Thai families, would that seem like it was okay then? I’ve heard many compelling economic arguments for hunting, ones that I can’t argue against, but the morality and psychology of someone that wants to shoot an animal for fun is all too rarely brought up

NR: Surely Panthera – predominantly Peter Lindsey – have a vested interest too prove that trophy hunting and canned lion hunting is NOT effective, and yet they’ve shown time and again that it is?  And prostitution, being one of the oldest and long-standing careers in the world, can surely attest to the power of the economic argument?

PA: My point on the economic argument is that it doesn’t take into account morality – we could all make a very strong argument for slavery being beneficial to any economy, but would hopefully all reach the moral conclusion that it is a lot less cool than it used to be and probably best not argues for at polite dinner parties. Same for trophy hunting. I’m not denying that hunters have aided conservation, but my central point is always this – hunters don’t hunt to save animals. They do it because they never outgrew ripping wings off flies, and I’m not sure we want to support those sort of people. I’d rather medicate them

NR: As that above article will show in the comments section, what if trophy hunting saved a species? What if killing one saved 100? Where is the morality then? Unfortunately it isn’t just as simple as saying all killing is wrong (if it was, why do we have so many meat eaters who eat not for need -because we can survive perfectly well without meat- but for pleasure?). This isn’t just an economic argument, it’s a conservation argument.

PA: Again, I’m not arguing with the conservation side effect and really wish I had a better way to save land (the first priority is always that land – elephants would be in much better shape if we had more space for them to live in) for wildlife, but so far much better brains than mine haven’t found a way to take marginal areas and turn them into productive, non-consumptive areas of wildlife use. But to suggest that someone gets off their sofa in the USA, Germany or wherever, flies halfway around the world, shoots a lion that may or may not be tame, and does all that because they honestly believe it is the best way to preserve the species is insane. They do it for fun.  The kill one to save a hundred is known in the military as the devil’s alternative, and something conservationists are struggling with more and more. This debate will go on, I’d like to see more of it conducted civilly as it has been here (thanks for that), but find it very hard not to think of trophy hunters as anything but bullies

NR: Peter: all good points. To me, it’s not nice that someone should enjoy killing an animal (I am vegan) but if the result is that there is loads of money for conservation and a protected habitat, I cannot overlook those benefits. I would love a world where trophy hunting doesn’t have to exist, but sadly, there does not seem to be an alternative – which I think may answer your question, Marcy. That is, unless, we massively reduced both our population and consumption, which would free up loads of land for other animals. That, I think, is sadly a pipe dream….

The conversation wound to a standstill… as the world’s animals struggle for survival and great minds wrack their brains to find ways around the ‘hunting question’, what do you think should be done?

*and in case you were wondering, yes you can legally hunt cheetah in Namibia

Marcy Mendelson . 2014

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