Graham Boynton has written a piece in The Times newspaper on Friday 18 in which he said that it would be a mistake to ban the importation of wildlife trophies from Africa to the UK. The Queen’s Speech included the announcement that the importation of wildlife trophies from Africa will be banned.
I think that his article is badly thought through. Firstly, he never once discusses the morality of trophy hunting in the 21st-century. It is clearly immoral to shoot iconic wildlife on the African continent for the entertainment of wealthy foreigners from North America and the northern states of Europe.
Boynton also claims that the large amount of money paid to organisers in Africa to allow rich Americans to shoot their wildlife filters down into conservation. I have seen counterarguments in which people on the ground have stated that the millions of dollars paid for trophy hunting licenses has not found its way into conservation. Perhaps some of it does but not enough.
I would challenge the argument that trophy hunting benefits conservation in Africa. I think it benefits the businesses involved in trophy hunting. It benefits the politicians who grant the licenses to organisers of trophy hunting in Africa. I am convinced that there is a lot of money passing between people in an underhand way to facilitate this objectionable pastime.
The truth of the matter is that I have not seen one study or project of any kind which confirms to me that trophy hunting money improves conservation of the animals that are trophy hunted.
Boynton writes that it is difficult these days to endorse people wanting to bring home mounted animals’ heads. I would not say that it is difficult, I would say that it is impossible to endorse it. It is obviously something which should be banned if it can’t be sustained on conservation grounds.
He then goes on to state that hunting organisations argue that well-regulated trophy hunting is no worse than killing cattle and sheep for domestic food consumption. Well so what? They’re bound to say that aren’t they? They want to keep on killing lions and giraffes for the fun of it as long as these animals exist in Africa.
But for anybody with any sensibility towards animal welfare (and you don’t need to be a strong animal advocate) that sort the statement is unacceptable. And they refer to “well-regulated trophy hunting” which is an oxymoron in my view. I believe that there’s too much corruption in Africa within trophy hunting businesses and politicians to argue that it can ever be well-regulated.
Boynton then goes on to argue that people who object to trophy hunting and the importation of trophies into the UK are “evangelical Western animal rights groups”. This is patronising and unnecessarily derogatory. There are many millions of people, individuals like me, who simply detest the idea of it. We are not well funded and neither are we part of a group. We just think that it is a disgusting pastime.
Boynton says that people in Europe don’t understand the financial implications of banning the importation of trophies. He argues that there will be a big negative financial impact in Africa but I disagree with him. This is about conservation. You have to send the right signal. You have to value animals and not make animals part of business, as a way of making a profit. This is a form of animal abuse and it devalues the presence of iconic species on the African continent.
What you’re doing is you’re using these animals as an asset to be used for financial profit. I argue that that is not the right relationship to have with these animals. Our relationship should be one of preservation and conservation. We should be protecting them in all respects. Not one animal should be shot by any person. If farmers kill cheetahs because they have attacked their livestock they should be compensated through a government run insurance policy. The full focus should be on stopping people killing wildlife for any reason.
This is something that Boynton has totally missed. It’s about presenting the right publicity for conservation. This is about a mental attitude towards conservation. Trophy hunting comes from a bygone age when there was no concept of conservation and it cannot be carried forward into the 21st century because no matter how you pitch it, slice it and dice it, it undermines wildlife conservation in Africa.