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Killing and eating some of Britain’s big mammals has become a profound source of joy in my life. It is not just the sport; I also love how deer stalking locks one into a rural community of other field sportsmen, as well as landowners, tenant farmers, and family butchers. But increasingly, I have also been looking to other countries’ wild animals and wondering what I might bag were I to travel abroad to hunt with a rifle. I suppose I have, without being aware that this was happening to me, become an aspiring trophy hunter.
The term, of course, is somewhat misleading. What so-called ‘trophy hunters’ do is travel to different locations so that they might discover for themselves the wild parts of those lands, be immersed in the hunting traditions of those countries, and execute their very demanding and long-cultivated skill. The ‘trophy’ itself is, in the minds of most such hunters, a mere piece of memorabilia, collected so as not to forget the event and as a way of continually honouring the beast whose life was taken.
What is widely termed trophy hunting is one of those very rare things in this fallen and troubled world: a near-unqualified good. As a rule, I do not like the term ‘trophy hunting’ because it misleads people, but I’ll use it here because it is used by others.
The first thing that people need to understand is that animals, in the wild, die very horrible deaths. For example, a cervine animal that is not killed by being wounded by a competing member of its species, caught by a predator, or eaten from the inside out by parasites, simply starves to death. This is how most deer die in the UK. Indeed, that is how most herbivore species throughout the world die, including elephants. Over the course of their lives, they grind down their teeth until they cannot digest food any longer, and then they die slowly, growing weaker and weaker, until wounds open up and disease takes over their bodies. In the case of large African herbivores, they eventually collapse with weakness, at which point they’re torn to pieces by jackals, hyenas, or lions. Thus, no greater fortune can an ageing wild animal obtain than a bullet to the neck or the heart. And such hunting is not only good for the individual that dies, but for the other members of its species, who are rescued from the threat of disease that such an animal brings to its kind.
Some trophy hunters are extremely wealthy, and they introduce eye-watering amounts of money into the areas where they hunt. There are innumerable stories of wildlife parks in Africa rapidly extending their boundaries due to purchasing land with money from trophy hunting. Many species have been brought back from near-extinction due to this sport. In some parts of Africa, habitat that can sustain elephants—animals which consume astonishing amounts of vegetation and are extremely destructive—has been significantly increased by inviting wealthy big game hunters to shoot old bull elephants, whose heads look magnificent in a large hallway. These old creatures were thus saved from the appalling ‘natural’ death described above, and were simultaneously the means to extremely important conservation efforts. Conversely, Kenya, which banned hunting in 1977, has since seen a 70% reduction in its wildlife.
Half a century ago, the white rhino was nearly extinct. In 1960, the number of these creatures in South Africa numbered at only 840, and it was illegal to hunt them. By 1968, the country had only managed to get the population up to around a thousand, at which point hunting rhinos was reopened. Due to the growing market for rhino hunting, landowners intentionally sought to populate their lands with these animals. Their number has now increased to almost 20,000. The financial incentives derived from trophy hunting has made South Africa home to 93% of the world’s white rhinos. This is just one of many, many available examples that reveal trophy hunting to be a fundamental driver of animal welfare and conservationism.
Once a successful hunting industry is established in an area of Africa, it becomes necessary to stop all poaching, which if allowed to continue, destroys the main source of income. Hence, unscrupulous forms of hunting are prevented to protect the kind of legal, ethical hunting that not only supports the economy of the place but underpins positive conservation efforts. Many rural communities had largely seen wildlife as an obstacle either to expanding farmland or urbanisation, and therefore they sought to cull as many large mammals as possible. Now, such communities partly rely on the hunting industry for a growing economy. Consequently, in many such areas, it is the local communities that are spearheading efforts to protect animals which they once saw as rivals.
Beyond the financial and conservationist aspects, trophy hunting also undergirds a vital food source. For example, in Zambia alone, where over 60% of the population lives in poverty, trophy hunting has considerably increased food security by annually providing more than 286,000 pounds of meat to rural communities adjacent to hunting areas. Undermining this food source by curtailing trophy hunting, either directly or indirectly, would entail serious food shortages for these people.
In sum, trophy hunting is good for the hunted animal. It is good for the unhunted animals. It is good for habitat protection and conservationism. It is good for the local communities. It is good for the tourist industry of the country in which it takes place. It is good for the prevention of poaching. And it is good for the trophy hunting sportsman, who can spend his money doing what he loves, money that goes into the local economy of the—more likely than not—developing country.
In a letter to The Guardian last year, a number of prominent British academics highlighted the considerable “conservation dividends supported by sustainable hunting,” and they noted that attacks on such activities would “risk decreasing animal welfare and imperilling biodiversity.” The letter went on:
Evidence shows that removing regulated trophy hunting—and the incentives it creates for conservation—without having viable funded alternatives ready can lead to greater losses of wildlife, due to subsequent increases in illegal, unsustainable and inhumane killings of animals using snares, dogs, local weapons and poisons. A single trophy-hunted lion generates worldwide media attention, but the daily snaring and poisoning of lions in areas where they have little local value is largely ignored. Simplistic solutions to complex problems rarely work.
Academic and conservationist Dr. Catherine E. Semcer has suffered criticism for her public defence of trophy hunting. “If we are to reverse the decline of a million or more species toward extinction, then the most fundamental action that must be taken is the conservation of habitat,” she has stated. And it’s not trophy hunting that is jeopardising the future of animal habitats in Africa—quite the reverse—it is industry and agriculture, As Semcer explains:
In much of the world, especially in emerging markets like Africa, habitat conservation depends on making wildlife economically competitive with other land uses. Habitat conversion and degradation—particularly due to crop farming and the herding of livestock—are among the top threats to species conservation in Africa and around the globe. Reducing the incentive to transform wildlands into pastures and farms by clearing woodlands and killing wildlife that prey on livestock or compete for forage is essential to conservation.
In short, to quote the economist Thomas Sowell, “There are no solutions, only ever trade-offs.” Trophy hunting in Africa, Semcer notes, has provided incentives to conserve areas of wildlife habitat more than six times the size of the U.S. National Park System. “This includes nearly 50 million acres of private hunting reserves in South Africa that form a market-based conservation estate comprising 16.8% of the country’s total land area.”
Semcer lists a great many examples of trophy hunting dramatically improving the lives of African communities, which in turn have mobilised to develop security and conservation efforts to protect those animals which sportsmen come from afar to shoot. I cannot here reproduce Semcer’s extensive and comprehensive account of the good that trophy hunting does throughout Africa and beyond, nor her wide-ranging arguments for why trophy hunting has no realistic substitute, nor her many concerns regarding the catastrophe that would befall wildlife conservation across much of the world were trophy hunters to suffer adverse legislation from their own countries, but I strongly encourage readers to do some studying of the topic. Unfortunately, so few people consider trophy hunting from a disposition of disinterested analysis, choosing rather to form conclusions from mere emotional impulse.
In 2019, 133 conservation researchers and practitioners signed a letter that was published in Science Magazine. This letter highlighted why trophy hunting bans being debated in the U.S., UK, and the European Parliament are gravely ill-advised. At present, there is a Bill going through the UK parliament which aims to ban the importation of hunting trophies into the country. This Bill was passed with the backing of our so-called Conservative government in March 2023 and is currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords.
It is bad enough that we are making the capital error that all decaying civilisations have made, namely that of acting as if everything that may conceivably be disliked on moral grounds—spurious or not—can be fixed with some legislative or bureaucratic solution. What is perhaps worse, however, is that our activist and political class hold that they can opine about anything they like, irrespective of understanding, and then transcribe their ill-informed opinion into law.
Of course, part of this is mere virtue-signalling. Politicians who loudly condemn trophy hunting, knowing that they have the support of the population’s majority, can feel they’re taking a heroic stand on a moral issue without taking any risks. They do not think of the catastrophe their posturing will unleash on poor communities and the wildlife they pretend to care so much about—or at least I hope they haven’t thought of it, for if they have, their cretinous grandstanding is truly unforgivable.
Much of the popular appetite for a ban on the importation of hunting trophies arose in 2015, when a Zimbabwean lion called Cecil was killed at the hands of an American trophy hunter. When reports of this event emerged, the world went completely mad. Soon, every news outlet was fixated on the incident, and thousands of social media posts expressed yearning for the hunter’s death. Lions, in fact, live 8-10 years in the wild, and Cecil was 13 years old. He was likely months away from a very unpleasant death either by starvation or a territory feud with another lion. But instead, fortunately, a rich dentist from Minnesota threw 50,000 U.S. dollars into the local economy in Zimbabwe so that he could give the creature a better ending than it ever could have hoped for. Piers Morgan took to the TV screen to shout, completely falsely, “He was skinned alive!” When Morgan’s television guest expressed doubt about this account, Morgan then snapped, “Well you don’t know anything about it then!”—ironic, as it was Morgan who was clearly ignorant of the facts.
This, perhaps, is the worst aspect of our public discussion on trophy hunting: most people are not even opining anymore—however ignorantly—for they have resorted to purely emoting. And now, in our ridiculously bureaucratic regime, a combination of shallow, ill-informed opinions and confused emotions are converging at the level of executive power and before the end of 2024 may become—if it gets through the Upper House—a new Hunting Trophies Act, prohibiting sportsmen from bringing home to the UK their hunting memorabilia. This, of course, will undercut the trophy hunting world, paving the way to the kind of foreseeable wildlife and conservation tragedies to which I alluded above.
The bizarre thing is that we have a living case from which we could, if we were prepared to cogitate for five minutes, make our judgments on such sporting activities. Since the 2004 ban on hunting with hounds in Britain, the fox, the hare, and increasingly the red deer, have gone from being respected quarry species to mere agricultural pests. For the fox and hare, it is now open season all-year-round, with urban hobby shooters—generally dreadful people—driving into the countryside to devastate wildlife and post their achievements on their social media accounts. Tony Blair’s Hunting Act 2004 has been nothing short of a catastrophe for wildlife in the UK.
Charlie Pye-Smith amply demonstrates in his highly commendable body of investigative journalism, Rural Wrongs, that Blair’s hunting ban has made life vastly worse both for wildlife and for rural communities throughout Britain, and yet our politicians are currently looking for ways not only to ‘tighten the hunting ban,’ but extend this kind of legislative idiocy to the rest of the world with this new Hunting Trophies Act.
Whilst Pye-Smith’s book focuses almost exclusively on the question of hunting’s relationship to wildlife welfare in Britain, towards the end his work, he raises the issue of trophy hunting’s future:
In the deeply impoverished part of Zimbabwe where I spent most of my time, profits from trophy hunting had enabled villagers to build classrooms and health clinics, hire teachers and nurses and establish income-generating projects like grinding mills. Instead of seeing wild animals like elephants and lions as a threat to their survival and killing them, as they did in the days before they could benefit from trophy hunting, they were now protecting them.
Pye-Smith also records that Prof. Amy Dickman, Director of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), and Prof. Adam Hart, University of Gloucestershire Professor of Science Communication, analysed the 118 statements by MPs on the Hunting Trophies Bill during one of the longer parliamentary debates. These two researchers found that of the 118 statements, 85 were either false or misleading. And that number includes all nine statements by Sir Roger Gale, Conservative MP, who during the debate likened trophy hunting to paedophilia. Since then, a host of insufferable celebrities—including Lorraine Kelly, Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley, Boy George, and Kate Moss—have signalled their virtue by publicly condemning trophy hunting, without a single one addressing the many arguments in its favour advanced by both professional conservationists and the developing communities that are foremost beneficiaries of the sport.
I focus on this issue because, as a sportsman, it affects me personally. Undergoing the slow and arduous training in order to stalk deer humanely and responsibly in the UK has been a life-transforming process. Next year, I hope to hunt animals in Africa—probably kudu and springbok—and wild boar in central Europe. Hunting with a rifle is a noteworthy skill and such sporting pursuits have long been at the heart of our culture and the ways we renew the natural covenant with our landscapes. But really, the attack on trophy hunting is just one of a number of examples that reveal the true character of the regime under which we live.
It is typical for conservative-minded people to talk about the ongoing ‘culture war’ and how to win it. There is a culture war, but that war is surface-level theatre that expresses a much deeper struggle, one of a managerial takeover of every aspect of our lives for the sake of intensifying political control. And if you think the UK Conservative Party could save Britons from the kind of demonic admixture of managerial totalitarianism and managerial authoritarianism that the Labour Party will inflict on them when it forms a government next year, then you have not been awake during the past 13 years of Tory government.
The difference between the UK’s leading parties is one only of style, not of ideology or methodology. They all belong to the same tradition of managerial politics and emotional manipulation of the masses. Trophy hunting is enjoyed by a tiny number of people. There is obviously no point in wasting parliamentary time on bills that concern such a trivial population with such a niche hobby. So why do it? The answer is that the purpose of such bills is not what our regime claims it to be. The purpose is that of prolonging the appearance of moral rectitude among the political class while simultaneously passing legislation that creates precedents for future, wider-scoping legislation that will expand control. What we probably need—though it would be extremely painful—is regime collapse. It may be the only way out. But for the time being, if you’re standing at the side-lines applauding such bills, then whoever you are, you’re just a turkey voting for Christmas.
We update regularly World Latest Breaking News here. We update 2023-11-19 12:30:00 this news story from official website – https://europeanconservative.com/articles/essay/trophy-hunting-and-the-end-of-politics/.”
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