The Greatest Living Englishman has an opinion on big-game trophy hunting:
People who hunt big game are evil…
I was so supportive, in fact, that I went outside and banged my frying pans together, like we used to do for the nurses.
Because I just cannot understand why anyone could go to Botswana to shoot a lion or a giraffe.
It simply doesn’t compute in my head.
Fear not, however, because:
…but here’s why they are necessary
Because as the House of Lords debated the ban on severed heads this week, six African governments wrote to The Times newspaper begging them to let the hunting continue.
And they have a point.
They argue the big, wild animals in Africa often attack villagers and trample crops.
They are seen as a nuisance and are often shot by farmers.
But if a rich white hunter arrives on the scene and is prepared to pay upwards of £20,000 to shoot an animal, it’s suddenly worth the farmer’s while to make sure he has something to shoot at.
So instead of killing the wildlife, he starts to protect it.
Because he’s going to get a LOT more money from Hank the Texan dentist than he is from half an acre of maize.
The fact is that the rich white hunters who do this kind of thing are actually paying for the animals to be protected and looked after beforehand by the locals.
They’re even reintroducing rhinos to areas they haven’t been seen in for decades. I know this. I’ve been to a park and witnessed it happening. And I’ve met the locals who patrol the area at night, hunting the poachers.
If hunting was banned, all that would stop.
So it’s a weird conclusion but if a halfwit with way more money than sense and no moral fibre at all wants to fly to Africa to shoot an elephant, the kindest thing we can do as a nation of animal lovers is . . . let him.
Here’s my take on all of this. Firstly, as Clarkson notes, without hunting the game will just disappear. Farmers will either shoot, shovel and shut up or else they’ll set out poisoned bait. To a farmer, a predator isn’t just a dangerous pest: it’s something that takes away his property — and as I’ve said before, a leopard will kill an entire flock of sheep, just because it can, before taking one away to eat. Lions are not any better. A large herd of springbok will eat all the farmer’s grazing for his sheep or cattle, and the farmer will end up with starving herds. Don’t get me started on elephants, which are more destructive than governments.
So spare me the maudlin “O the pore wee beasties” PETA nonsense.
All that said, however, I should also point out that I’ve never been a trophy hunter. I’ve hunted either as part of a (very unofficial) game management system — helping a farmer protect his herds from lion and springbok, for example — or on very infrequent occasions for the sheer joy of the stalk, in terrain and climate so inhospitable it would make your nuts retract into your body. On the latter occasions, I’ve been close to death so many times that my ultimate survival was a matter of pure luck. That’s why I did it — and that’s why I don’t hunt anymore.
All that said, however, I understand the point of trophy collecting. When you have hunted something and taken its life, it is the ultimate form of possession, and there is a profound intimacy between hunter and prey — an intimacy that demands that one keeps a part of that animal, not as proof, but as a form of gratitude. Even on those stupid “wilderness survival” TV shows, you’ll see someone who has just killed an animal for food say, “Thank you giving me your life so I can survive.” It’s not hokum: it’s about as primal a ritual as one can find, and it’s embedded deep within our hunter-gather gene code.
People like Jeremy Clarkson, who’ve never experienced that emotion, will say that they don’t understand that need to keep a bond with one’s conquest. The key lies within the phrase “who’ve never experienced that emotion”. You can’t explain it to them, and they’ll never understand it because, of course, food comes from the supermarket and not from the barrel of your gun. (You’d think that Clarkson would understand this, seeing as he keeps cattle and — at one time — sheep. But there ya go. He may be the Greatest Living Englishman, but he’s not perfect.)
Of course, trophy hunting isn’t about getting food. But the emotion it brings out is no different — “moral fibre” has nothing to do with it — and if we weren’t so coddled and anesthetized by our oh-so civilized society, we’d all know that.
That aside, we’ll just have to justify big game hunting as “game management” to assuage the hurt feewings of the Weepy Animal Lovers Set. Like Jeremy Clarkson.