As with many things in life, the criticism of hunting is cyclical and often triggered by a specific event. However, in recent years no one act did more damage to the reputation of hunting as an activity than the killing of Cecil The Lion. This criticism was well-justified. Firstly, the animal had been conditioned, at least partly, to the presence of humans. Secondly, it had become something of a celebrity which meant that it could not be hunted without attracting attention.
This particular hunt also indicates that there are sometimes other factors at play. One of these is seen as the quintessential African condition – corruption. The hunting of Cecil points to the possibility that ‘palms were greased’ for the taking of this trophy. Whether that is a fact or not is open to conjecture, but the appearance of impropriety is there. Corruption in all echelons of life in Africa is a major problem and while it is an indictment on the continent it also has far-reaching implications for every other activity. This further complicates transparent trophy hunting and conservation efforts on the continent.
Another negative is the concern that, of the revenue generated by trophy hunting, the amount which actually goes towards local communities could be as low as three per cent. The perception is that only a select and elite few receive the majority of the revenue generated. This garners resentment and distrust among locals of the conservation efforts which are seen as farming for profit.
One of the major arguments in favour of hunting is the fostering of genetic diversity. There are two arguments against this. Hunting directly results in the elimination of genetic diversity through the removal of individual animals from the breeding pool. The second argument is that often it is strongest or most impressive specimens which are removed, this means that weaker or sub-optimal bloodlines have to fill the void. This alters the evolutionary process.
Yet another negative is the fact that the process of exporting trophies from big game hunts can act as a cover for the activities of illegal hunts or poaching with the result that the black market for endangered animal trophies is perpetuated.
While all of these points are valid arguments against hunting it must be borne in mind that they are insular arguments and not all of them apply to every hunting situation. Hunting still remains a very valuable and viable tool for population management. This has the additional benefit of preserving the eco-habitat where the species are found.
In addition, it must be considered that in most cases stringent controls, regulations and policing are in put place to ensure adherence with the scientific practises and recommendations. Many conservation and governmental bodies in Africa have implemented a process where only older, sickly or those animals which are past their breeding prime may be hunted. This further protects genetic- and bio-diversity.
A lot of attention and focus falls on hunting while the plight of endangered species targeted by poaching and illegal hunting seem to be overlooked. You may not agree with hunting for the sake of collecting trophies, but you should be more appalled by the activities of poachers which often result in the animal suffering for many hours or even days only to have the ‘choice’ parts removed and the rest of the carcass going to waste. With organised and regulated hunting every part of the animal is used and the suffering is kept to the absolute minimum.
It is a matter of priorities. What are yours?