Wednesday 4 March 2015


For centuries, Europeans colonised and exploited the African continent. This period is recognised today as a somewhat dark era in world history, during which Africa was plundered for her various natural resources, species were hunted without restrained to the brink and of course the land’s human population was put in chains and shipped to the four corners of the earth.  

European nations fought for dominion over various territories motivated both by avarice and the patriarchal view that ‘primitive’ peoples were incapable of understanding the complexities of self-governance in an increasingly complex world of international trade. In short, they needed to be ‘civilised’. 

Looking back it was all pretty dreadful for the African people and we are glad we’ve abandon the ignorant attitudes that, upon reflection, were so clearly self-serving, inhumane and bigoted. Or have we abandoned them?

Our attitudes towards ‘trophy hunting’ on the Dark Continent suggest Europeans still believe they know best how Africa should manage its affairs, while also demonstrating our willingness to impose sanctions should the ignorant natives fail to toe the line. 

Emotive, self-indulgent ideologues can also block its removal

While impoverished African countries plough money and intellectual resources into the development of strategies to manage their wildlife resources profitably and sustainably for the benefit of both their desperately poor human populations and the animals themselves, animal welfare agencies in affluent countries across the globe demand an end to trophy hunting, while the Australian government prepares to announce an embargo on the importation of hunting trophies. 

The many benefits derived from well managed, ethical trophy hunting programs are no longer open to dispute on practical economic or scientific grounds. Like it or not, in overpopulated countries where everyday life is very much a hand to mouth affair, unless animals have a clear dollar value making them worthy of conservation, they will be killed for food, for the pittance earned by locals acting as spotters for the very lucrative Asian medicines market, or for their nuisance value and all without a second thought.   

It is the dollar value intrinsic to elephants through properly managed big game hunting programs that results in local people looking at wildlife in a different light, thus making the local elephants’ forays into marginal crops and their destruction of fragile infrastructure tolerable. Likewise smaller, less charismatic species once killed at random for the damage they did to a family’s goat herd or so they could be sold on the bush meat (black)market are now conserved for their potential economic return as hunting trophies.  

Additionally, because a percentage of the trophy hunter’s fee goes directly to the local community which lives among the animals in the wildlife conservancy where legal, government regulated trophy hunting takes place, the locals have a clear stake in protecting their assets from poachers who are not interested in sharing their profits with local communities.  

The affluent ‘West’ that would love to see an end to trophy hunting to ensure elephants will still be around for their children and their children’s children, tend to be largely unconcerned  for the fate of children who are starving today. The meat from trophy hunts is distributed to locals, whereas the meat of poached animals is not for fear of alerting authorities to poaching activities.  

Despite beliefs to the contrary, poachers do not always shoot their quarry, but rather turn to poison in order to kill as many animals as possible as quietly as possible, during quick incursions into conservancies or across borders. Animals taken in this manner not only endure long and often miserable deaths, their carcasses may not be found for days, though desperate locals will often flirt with danger by taking the abandoned flesh despite the risk of poisoning. 

Were trophy hunting more widely accepted, the practice could be extended, thus more trophy hunters would avail themselves of the opportunity to participate without fear of public scorn. As a result, locals could better exploit their natural resources, while still maintaining numbers adequate to the species’ survival and indeed its growth. 

Likewise, the percentage of hunting fees returned to the conservancy could be used to expand efforts to protect herds from poachers. Such efforts are in train now of course, but they are limited by the funding available from governments that have more pressing priorities. This funding could so easily be derived from the expansion of properly regulated and very profitable trophy hunting, were it not for opposition from emotive hardline conservationists.  

In the United States for instance, the greater part of all conservation funding is derived not from conservation groups or charitable animal activists, but from hunting fees. Hunters contribute not 52% or 60% of conservation funding; they don’t even contribute 80%. Hunting and fishing fees in fact contribute a whopping 90% of all conservation funding in the US.  

There is no reason this could not also be the case in Africa. No reason, that is, except the opposition and emotive ignorance of affluent white people who would rather deny the realities of the crisis than contribute to any tangible solution. 

They oppose properly regulated trophy hunting, not due to any scientific evidence to suggest it’s detrimental to conservation – such claims have been debunked time and again by reputable organisations, many of which are famously committed to conservation. No, they object because doing so “feels” right, while not doing so “feels” wrong in much the same way people “feel” God exists and “feel” saved despite a demonstrable lack of objective evidence to support either notion.  

Worse, in my view, is the anti-hunters’ view that it’s OK to deny Aboriginal peoples a shot at leaving economic misery behind, simply because the anti-hunter loves elephants and hates hunters. 

Camels gather in outback Australian
Australia could likewise benefit from a more practical and objective view of sustainable wildlife resource management, instead of indulging the philosophical disdain of animal rights activists to the great detriment of Australia’s Aboriginal people and our ecology.  

Each and every year, tens of thousands of animals, ranging from introduced species such as pigs, goats, foxes, wild dogs, cats, deer, horses, camels and even our native kangaroos are culled by the State. While the Greens and animal welfare agencies oppose hunting, they recognise the need for “culling” which, while undoubtedly an emotionally hygienic term, still means killing animals.  

Their objection is not to the plainly necessary death of some animals per se, but as the Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons recently put it, they object to the notion “miserable bastards get their jollies by stalking and killing defenceless animals.” For this reason the emotive masses prefer the killing is done by ‘professional hunters’, who ostensibly harbour absolutely no job satisfaction whatsoever, requiring counselling at the end of every day’s work. Apparently they don’t shoot the “innocent” either, concentrating instead on animals with established criminal records, which they always approach noisily and arm beforehand in the interests of fair play. 

The fact is, the vast majority of those who claim to ‘hate’ hunters for myriad emotional reasons, are not at all opposed to killing animals. They simply disapprove of people enjoying the hunt and for this philosophical prejudice they are willing to deny the economic benefits to be realised by cashing in on hunters’ motives they really have no need to either understand or condone. 

I am a hunter. I have hunted and occasionally even successfully brought down all but a few species that may be hunted legally in Australia. However, no trophy heads adorn my walls and so far as I’m aware there is not so much as a single photograph in existence showing me in what might be called a hunting pose.  

The reasons for this are down to circumstance as much as anything. I do most of my hunting alone and therefore have no-one handy to take hunting snaps and much of my hunting career took place before everyone had a phone camera on them every minute of every day. But it also doesn’t occur to me to take photos of myself while hunting, or to take a trophy either. It’s just not my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I’m offended by people who do like that brew.  

I don’t ‘hate’ people for choosing not to hunt. I don’t ‘hate’ people for not eating meat. I don’t ‘hate’ farmers for sheering sheep or keeping chickens and I don’t ‘hate’ scientists for seeking solutions to tissue rejection in animal subjects. I don’t even ‘hate’ arrogant Greens, though I readily confess the decision to pity them for their ignorance rather than loathe them for their bigoted arrogance is often a close run thing. 

So much of the “I love animals too much to hurt them” philosophy is couched in terms of how much those same people ‘hate’ other people. Yet somehow the anti-hunters’ logic leads them to determine my philosophy of life makes me worthy of scorn?  

Like Africa, Australia is also disadvantaged by the animal rights advocate’s inability to acknowledge the potential economic benefits to be derived from what is otherwise pure waste. 

Kangaroos in their thousands will be culled each and every year, and for reasons we simply do not need to understand people with pockets brimming with cash would pay handsomely for the privilege of shooting a kangaroo that is already earmarked for death.  

700 Koalas culled in Victoria in just a few years, without return. Click for details
The proceeds could be used for conservation works, or in the case of remote Aboriginal communities, it might be ploughed into community development and infrastructure. But instead, the culling comes at a considerable cost to the taxpayer and in fact makes the taxpayer the de facto hunter. Why? Because anti-hunting pressure groups misinform and mislead the public into thinking that if hunting is banned, no animals will die, encouraging the successfully disinformed public to put pressure on politicians accordingly. In reality, because State governments are always strapped for cash, the culling just doesn’t get done adequately and feral populations in particular grow and destroy the environment largely unchecked.  

Hundreds of thousands, some say millions of feral camels roam the outback, damaging the environment and costing Australia a fortune to control, despite the millions of dollars that could be made selling the privilege of hunting them to tourist hunters. This of course doesn’t take into account the employment opportunities for Aboriginal trackers and ‘bearers’ who, as in the African safari setting, stand to derive an income from putting their astounding outback knowledge and skills to work in support of an environmentally friendly and sustainable industry. Add to this the potential benefits to small outback towns where hunters base themselves and purchase their supplies etc., and the economic and empowerment potential is quite significant.  

And why are the impoverished and geographically marginalised forced to forgo this economic godsend? Because economically secure white folks who know what’s best for them don’t like hunting, that’s why! 

Yes, the old colonial attitude is alive and well, but whereas white oppressors of black races past liked to justify their arrogant, self-serving activities in the name of ‘civilisation’, the predominantly white oppressors of today’s black races have a new god. They call it ‘enlightenment’ and it is no less arrogant or self-serving.

Anyway, I’ll get outaya way now...

Those interested in some factual resources on the role of big game hunting in Africa’s conservation efforts and economy, may be interested in the resources below:

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