Opinion

“Why it’s time to ban trophy hunting”

Eduardo Gonçalves, Founder – Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting

Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE; Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

In the 19th century, the British Empire brought trophy hunting to Africa. Colonial rulers encouraged this new ‘sport’ as adventure but also to open up new areas for agriculture. Two hundred years later and the British are once again back in Africa – but this time they’re shooting growing numbers of endangered wildlife.

The renowned 19th century military engineer Sir William Cornwallis Harris called his hunting expeditions a “noble diversion” and “part of civilisation”. Almost by way of example, he once fired into a herd of 400 elephants just to see how many he could hit. On another occasion he described mowing down herds of wildebeest, zebra, tsessebe and hartebeest thus:

“(They were) pouring down from every quarter … until the landscape absolutely presented a moving mass of game,” he wrote. “I dismounted – firing both barrels of my rifle into the retreating phalanx and leaving the ground behind me strewn with the slain.”

Major Gordon H ‘Andy’ Anderson shot between 350 and 400 elephants during his lifetime. Frederick Grant ‘Deaf’ Banks is said to have killed over 1,000 elephants, as did Walter Dalrymple Maitland ‘Karamojo’ Bell.

Elephants are still the runaway favourite animal killed by British ‘big game’ hunters venturing to Africa. Over 1000 elephant trophies have been brought into Britain in recent years – almost twice as many as their second favourite animal, the humble hippopotamus.

Despite plummeting populations, Britons are still killing the world’s wildlife in huge numbers. Malcolm King, from Gloucestershire, has been bestowed with some 40 different awards from Safari Club International (SCI) –  the world’s leading industry association – for his exploits around the globe.

One of them, the coveted Inner Circle Hunting Achievement Award (Diamond class), is presented to hunters who have killed at least 125 animals so big and impressive that they all made it into the record books.

It serves as proof that modern trophy hunting is not merely the preserve of Americans, as is often thought. Indeed, Spain’s Antonio Sanchez-Arino is possibly the world’s number one trophy hunter of all time. By his own admission, ‘Tony’ – now in his 80s – has killed 1,317 elephants, 340 lions, 127 rhinoceroses, 167 leopards, and 2,039 African buffaloes.

In recent years, Safari Club International has handed out awards to no fewer than 500 hunters who have killed all of these great animals, collectively referred to as the ‘African Big Five’. All are now classified as either vulnerable or threatened on IUCN’s Red List of threatened species. Yet the killing sprees are allowed to continue.

What should perhaps alarm us most here in Britain is the extraordinary growth in the number of big game trophies coming back into our country. In the 1980s, the figure was an average of 17 a year. Since 2010, the number has grown to some 300 animals annually.

Worse still, hunters from the UK are shooting some of the most endangered animals on the planet.

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, aims to prevent or restrict exploitation of wildlife. Species listed in Appendix I of the treaty are “threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade.  Trade in specimens of these species must be subject to particularly strict regulation in order not to endanger further their survival,” according to the treaty which adds they “must only be authorized in exceptional circumstances.”

Yet since the beginning of the decade, British trophy hunters have killed – for so-called ‘sport’ – many of the animals listed in CITES’ Appendix I. They include cheetahs, leopards, and elephants shot for tusks in the animals’ highly endangered populations of Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia.

These animals are listed in Appendix I for a reason. Their situation is perilous.

There are estimated to be fewer than 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild. The species occupies just 2% of its historic range.

Scientists believe there were around 700,000 leopards 50 years ago, but that today the number is just 50,000. Around 5,000 leopards are killed annually.

British hunters are still killing lions in significant numbers – both in the wild, and in South Africa’s appalling big cat ‘factory farms’, where thousands of lions are kept in captivity in order to be shot for fun in fenced-in enclosures.

There were up to half a million wild lions in the 1950s. Today some fear there are less than 20,000.

Elephant numbers have also fallen, from approximately 1 million in the 1980s to less than half that number today. One third of all remaining African elephants live in Botswana, a country the size of France which – to the delight of trophy hunting enthusiasts – has just reopened its borders to them after a 5-year hiatus.

However it is not just the sheer numbers we should be worrying about. It is the fact that trophy hunters deliberately seek out the strongest and fittest animals in order to enter the record books and receive prizes from groups like Safari Club International.

This artificial selection is creating a reverse evolutionary effect. The gene pool of the African lion has shrunk by 15% in the last century. The average tusk size of the African elephant has declined markedly in the last generation.

We are not only faced with remnant species: we are left with their remnant DNA. They will be less able to adapt and survive in the face of growing challenges such as climate change.

Elephant tusks perform more than decorative duties: they are there to seek out water from dry riverbeds, for instance. With longer, fiercer and more frequent droughts predicted, what future do our great pachyderms face?

Similar effects are said to have been found among polar bears, another animal popular with British hunters. This is despite their almost iconic status as one of the animals most likely to be catastrophically impacted by a warming planet.

The list of animals and body parts legally entering the UK every year is extraordinary. British hunters have travelled the world in search of wolf trophies, from Russia and Kyrgyzstan to the east, and the US and Canada to the west.

They have taken the horns of rhinoceroses, the skins of zebras, trophies of giraffes, and the tails of hippopotamuses.

They have sought out primates who share over 90% of their DNA with us – including vervet monkeys, and various species of baboon.

As well as lions, cat hunters have criss-crossed the globe in search of cougars, caracals, Eurasian lynxes, North American bobcats, and even Namibian wild cats.
Incredibly, British hunters are also shooting ‘extinct’ animals.

One of the creatures whose skins and other body parts regularly make their way into Britain – with the blessing of Defra civil servants, it should be noted – is the Scimitar-horned oryx.

This is an animal listed as “Extinct in the Wild” by IUCN in its renowned Red List of threatened species.

Yet rich hunters still quietly go to private ranches in South Africa and the US where they can acquire the ultimate trophy – an animal so rare it officially no longer exists. What a prize indeed.

British safari companies are among those who sell hunting holidays to shoot these magnificent antelopes, thought to be the origin of ancient stories of unicorns.

Its myth rivals that which says that trophy hunting can save species by funding conservation, and that we should therefore be happy to sacrifice some for the good of the many.

If trophy hunting really is the best that conservation has to offer, then God help wildlife.

The truth is that it doesn’t work like this. Trophy hunting generates a pittance for conservation, let alone for the local communities we hope will protect their habitats. The revenues it generates are eclipsed by those of the nature tourism sector whose very business model relies on keeping animals alive and protected.

Nature tourism creates far better-paying and permanent jobs in contrast to the low-grade, seasonal labour occasionally hired by safari hunting firms. This provides a far greater incentive for people to protect species and spaces.

A trophy animal can only be shot once. The benefit – whether economic or otherwise – is then gone. Killing in the name of conservation is a cruel hoax.

There are new dangers ahead we must now mobilise against with all our might. The lobbyists for the trophy hunting industry are trying to expand the areas and animals that can be hunted. They have already persuaded President Trump to allow the import of lions and elephants from their most endangered populations.

The body of a ‘souvenir’ black rhino recently killed by an American trophy hunter will shortly reach US shores after being granted a government import permit.

The lobbyists are hard at work trying to persuade CITES to relax restrictions on hunting their favourite animals. They have already won a number of significant victories.

Britain has many reasons to stand up to them. We brought trophy hunting to Africa. We should now help bring it to an end.

Our official support for trophy hunting stands in stark contrast to the world-leading positions we have taken on issues such as ivory trading and illegal wildlife trafficking.

According to UN projections, as many as 1 million animals could go extinct in coming years. Our leadership on the international stage is needed now more than ever.

We not only need to heal our rift with nature; we have an opportunity to heal the divisions in our own community too. Brexit has left Britain bruised and divided. Yet there is no issue which brings us together more than our love of animals.

This is borne out by a recent poll commissioned by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting. No fewer than 86% of people across Great Britain and Northern Ireland believe that all trophy hunting should be banned. Only 8% of people disagree.

This on its own is extraordinary enough. There are few if any policies supported by such an overwhelming majority of people.

More extraordinary still, though, is the degree of consensus across region, class, and political affiliation. The figures for those who want to ban trophy hunting are virtually identical among ‘Remainers’ and ‘Leavers’, and among supporters of Conservative or Labour, Lib Dem or Brexit Party.

It is surely time to now abolish trophy hunting once and for all. It is a colonial hang-over that is cruel and serves no conservation purpose. We need to consign it to the dustbin of history.

So let’s get on with banning the import of these horrific ‘souvenirs’ into our own country right away.

For the sake of Britain, and – of course – for the sake of our increasingly imperilled natural world.

Letter from 145 international conservationists and cross-party politicians

It is time for the UK government to help bring an end to trophy hunting, starting with urgent action on protected species.

The number of animals killed by trophy hunters is staggering: in total, 1.7m trophies were legally traded worldwide between 2004-14, around 200,000 of them from threatened species. Of these, 2,500 were brought home by British hunters, including hundreds of heads, feet, tails, hides, tusks and horns from some of the most endangered species, including rhino and elephant.

Elephants were being poached in their tens of thousands each year to cater to the global demand for ivory, yet they were still deemed fair game for trophy hunters.

Lions fared the worst, hit with the biggest increase in trophy hunting among the big five since 2004: around 13,800 lion trophies were traded over the subsequent decade. Lion numbers plunged 43% between 1993 and 2014. Cecil’s death in 2015 prompted the UK government to conduct a study on the impact of trophy hunting, but no further action was taken and lion trophies continued to be imported in the following years.

Giraffe populations have crashed by 40% in the past 30 years. In 2018, two subspecies were listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list. In the US, hunters brought back trophies from 3,563 giraffes between 2006 and 2015.

When it comes to saving the last of Earth’s megafauna, it is not only a question of conservation but a moral imperative. Animals that once teemed in their millions have been largely wiped out, part of an anthropocentric extinction event that has claimed 60% of the Earth’s fauna in the past 50 years.

Today, the last of these animals continue to be relentlessly killed for their body parts to feed the demand for trinkets, bushmeat and fake medicinal cures. But even at this late hour it’s not too late to save them and put in place the protections they need to recover and thrive in the wild.

Banning the import of hunting trophies will send a clear message to the international community that there is no place for trophy hunting in this day and age.

We hope the British government will act quickly to implement such a ban and will lead the way in urging other countries to do the same. As with the Ivory Act, the government can expect full and enthusiastic support from the British public for this move.

Signatories:

  • Damian Aspinall Chairman, The Aspinall Foundation
  • Candice Bergen Actor and conservationist
  • Gordon Buchanan Wildlife photographer and conservationist
  • Nicky Campbell Broadcaster and journalist
  • Giles Clark Director of conservation, Big Cat Sanctuary, and TV presenter
  • Jilly Cooper Author
  • Dr Louise de Waal Sustainable tourism consultant and creative writer/Green Girls in Africa
  • Jane Goodall Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute and UN messenger of peace
  • Stanley Johnson Author and co-chairman, Environmentalists for Europe
  • Bella Lack Born Free ambassador and member of Ivory Alliance 2024
  • Jan Leeming TV presenter
  • Matt Lucas Comedian and actor
  • Joanna Lumley Actor
  • Virginia McKenna Founder, Born Free Foundation
  • Lesley Nicol Actor and conservationist
  • Edward Norton Filmmaker and UN goodwill ambassador for biodiversity
  • Michael Palin Writer, actor and broadcaster
  • Dan Richardson Actor and conservationist
  • William Shatner Actor
  • The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith Bishop of St Albans
  • Denise Dresner Action for Elephants UK
  • Alexia Abnett Director, Southern African Fight for Rhinos
  • Drew Abrahamson Founder, Captured in Africa Foundation
  • Jane Alexandra, Louise Ravula Co-founders, Two Million Tusks
  • Rosemary Alles Co-founder, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos
  • Claire Bass Executive director, Humane Society International UK
  • Reinhard Behrend Founder, Rettet den Regenwald e.V. (Rainforest Rescue)
  • Scott Blais CEO/Co-founder of Global Sanctuary for Elephants
  • Karen Botha Chief executive, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
  • Rob Brandford Director, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  • Laura Bridgeman Acting director, In Defense of Animals (USA)
  • Carol Buckley Founder, Elephant Aid International
  • Reute Butler President, Friends of Conservation
  • Salisha Chandra Founding member, Kenyans United Against Poaching: KUAPO Trust
  • David Cowdrey Head of policy and campaigns, International Fund for Animal Welfare
  • Jan Creamer President, Animal Defenders International
  • Cormac Cullinan Director, Wild Law Institute (South Africa)
  • Arend de Haas Co-founder and director, African Conservation Foundation
  • Audrey Delsink Wildlife director, HSI-Africa
  • Heli Dungler Founder, Four Paws International
  • Lee Durrell Honorary director, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Dave Du Toit Founder, Vervet Monkey Foundation
  • Stefania Falcon Founder, Future 4 Wildlife: Africa
  • Dr Christian Felix Board member, Future for Elephants e.V.
  • Sudarshani Fernando Sentinels Against Wildlife Crime (Sri Lanka)
  • Eduardo Gonçalves Founder/President, Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting
  • Birgit Hampl Founder, For the Giants (Germany)
  • Iris Ho Senior specialist, wildlife programs and policy, Humane Society International
  • Dr Lynn Johnson Founder and CEO, Nature Needs More
  • Simon Jones Founder and CEO, Helping Rhinos
  • Max and Josh Kauderer Founders, Elephant Highway
  • Alan Knight CEO, International Animal Rescue
  • Laurene K Knowles Founder/President, Elemotion Foundation
  • Rob Laidlaw Executive director, Zoocheck Inc
  • Professor Phyllis Lee Director of Science, Amboseli Trust for Elephants
  • Dr Smaragda Louw Director, Ban Animal Trading, Compassion in Action
  • Dr Niall McCann Conservation director, National Park Rescue
  • Duncan McNair CEO, Save the Asian Elephants
  • Christine Macsween Co-founder, LionAid
  • Chris Mercer Founder, Campaign against Canned Hunting
  • Marcelle Meredith Executive director, National Council of SPCAs South Africa
  • Fiona Miles Country Director, Four Paws South Africa
  • Dr Les Mitchell Pax Gaia and ICAS Africa
  • Kate Moore Programmes director, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust
  • Stephen Munro Managing Director, The Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education
  • Ingrid E Newkirk Founder, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
  • Sue Olsen Founder, Olsen Animal Trust
  • Paul Oxton Founder/Director, Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
  • Linda Park, Sarah Dyer Co-founders, Voice4Lions
  • Asgar Pathan Executive director, Care for the Wild, Kenya
  • Donalea Patman Founding director, For the Love of Wildlife Limited
  • Michele Pickover Director, EMS Foundation
  • Melanie Reiner Managing director, Animals United e.V.
  • Dr Jill Robinson Founder and CEO, Animals Asia Foundation
  • Caroline Ruane CEO, Naturewatch Foundation, coordinators of the World Animal Day movement
  • Noor Santosian Co-founder and president, Africa Nomads Conservation
  • John Sauven Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
  • Elizabeth Schrank Founder and director, Elephantopia
  • Stephen Sibbald UK country director, World Animal Protection
  • Dr Bool Smuts Director and founder, Landmark Foundation
  • Patsy Stagman Rhino Conservation Dubai
  • John Stephenson CEO, Stop Ivory
  • Yvette Taylor Director, Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization
  • Janet Thomas Founder and CEO, Animal Aid Abroad (Australia)
  • Carl Thornton Founder and director, PitTrack K9 Conservation
  • Thomas Töpfer Chairman, Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas e.V.
  • Will Travers President, Born Free Foundation
  • Helen Turnbull CEO, The Cape Leopard Trust
  • Sarah Uhlemann International program director and senior attorney, Center for Biological Diversity
  • Amy Wilson Co-founder, Animal Law Reform South Africa
  • Rory Young Co-founder, Chengeta Wildlife
  • Professor David Bilchitz University of Johannesburg; director, South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law
  • Dr Mahinda Deegalle Reader in study of religions, philosophies and ethics
  • Sujeewa Jasinghe Centre for Eco-cultural Studies (CES, Sri Lanka)
  • Andrew Knight Professor of animal welfare and ethics; founding director, Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester
  • Ian Redmond Independent Wildlife Biologist, Co-Founder of the Elefriends campaign (1989) and ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species
  • Professor Alice Roberts Biological anthropologist, author and broadcaster
  • Dr Adam Rutherford Geneticist, author and broadcaster
  • Heidi Allen (Ind), South Cambridgeshire
  • Sir David Amess (Con), Southend West
  • Hilary Benn (Lab), Leeds Central
  • Clive Betts (Lab), Sheffield South East
  • Tom Brake (LibDem), Carshalton and Wallington
  • Alan Brown (SNP), Kilmarnock and Loudon
  • Rosie Cooper (Lab), West Lancashire
  • Sir David Crausby (Lab), Bolton North East
  • Jim Cunningham (Lab), Coventry South
  • Sir Edward Davey (LibDem), Kingston and Surbiton
  • Martyn Day (SNP), Linlithgow and East Falkirk
  • Emma Dent Coad (Lab), Kensington
  • David Drew (Lab Co-op), Stroud
  • Tim Farron (LibDem). Westmorland and Lonsdale
  • Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab), Poplar and Limehouse
  • Yvonne Fovargue (Lab), Makerfield
  • Sir Roger Gale (Con), North Thanet
  • Zac Goldsmith (Con), Richmond Park and North Kingston
  • Helen Hayes (Lab), Dulwich and West Norwood
  • Kelvin Hopkins (Ind), Luton North
  • Andrea Jenkyns (Con), Morley and Outwood
  • Sir Greg Knight (Con), East Yorkshire
  • Peter Kyle (Lab), Hove
  • Pauline Latham (Con), Mid Derbyshire
  • Emma Little Pengelly (DUP), Belfast South
  • Caroline Lucas (Green), Brighton, Pavilion
  • Ian Lucas (Lab), Wrexham
  • Kerry McCarthy (Lab), Bristol East
  • Stuart McDonald (SNP), Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East
  • Catherine McKinnell (Lab), Newcastle upon Tyne North
  • Rachael Maskell (Lab Co-op), York Central
  • Carol Monaghan (SNP), Glasgow North West
  • Jessica Morden (Lab), Newport East
  • Matthew Pennycook (Lab), Greenwich and Woolwich
  • Rebecca Pow (Con), Taunton Deane
  • Virendra Sharma (Lab), Ealing, Southall
  • Tommy Sheppard (SNP), Edinburgh East
  • Angela Smith (Ind), Penistone and Stocksbridge
  • Alex Sobel (Lab Co-op), Leeds North West
  • John Spellar (Lab), Warley
  • Wes Streeting (Lab), Ilford North
  • Graham Stringer (Lab), Blackley and Broughton
  • Giles Watling (Con), Clacton
  • Daniel Zeichner (Lab), Cambridge
  • Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
  • Baroness Young of Old Scone
  • Catherine Bearder MEP

I cannot think of anything more cruel or cowardly than trophy hunting – by Joanna Lumley

All animal abuse is unacceptable. But mostly it is illegal. Trophy hunting is legalised animal abuse on an industrial scale.

Trophy hunters are exempted from laws which ban trafficking of endangered species. You can’t shoot an elephant and trade its tusks. If you’re a trophy hunter you can kill the same elephant, take its tusks and get away scot-free.

We now have just 40 ‘Big Tusker’ African elephants left on Earth. 

40…

Colonial-era trophy hunters massacred them. Modern-day hunters are allowed to continue the slaughter. One hunter, Ron Thomson, has proudly boasted of having killed more than 5000 elephants.

Humans and primates share over 90% of the same DNA. British trophy hunters joyfully boast of killing monkeys and baboons. Alongside elephants, they are among the most popular animals for UK trophy hunters.

An investigation by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting reveals that hunters have traded trophies of whales, dolphins and chimpanzees. Sloth bears, parrots, turtles and flamingos are deemed fair game too.

People capable of animal cruelty are equally capable of hurting people. Many of the world’s worst criminals – including Moors Murderer Ian Brady – started out abusing animals.

The FBI says animal cruelty is a ‘Grade A felony’ – the most serious category of crime. Serials killers keep souvenirs of their victims. Trophy hunters kill one animal after another and then take their sick mementos home.

You can go to prison for shooting a cat for fun. You can win a prize for shooting a wild cat for fun, even though it is threatened with extinction.

Scientists say lions are losing their genetic diversity thanks to hunters shooting the biggest animals, and that this could condemn them to extinction. The last time a big cat disappeared from earth was the sabre-tooth tiger. It died out in prehistoric times.

Can you imagine a world without lions? How do we explain that to future generations?

We cannot call ourselves civilised while we allow trophy hunting. We must abolish it. 

Please act today.

There’s no Excuse for Animal Abuse – by Ricky Gervais

Everyone was outraged when Cecil was shot 6 years ago, yet thousands more lions have been killed by trophy hunters since then, some of them by British hunters. There used to be 20 million lions. Now there are 20,000. The law says it’s still OK to kill lions for thrills. It’s not OK. It’s institutional insanity.

Trophy hunters are committing crimes against nature. They’re murdering living things for a laugh. If someone did that to a human they’d be sectioned or sent down. If you kill and grin about it, you’re a sadist. Full stop. Killing animals for ‘fun’ is the depths of depravity.

Trophy hunters call their atrocities ‘sport’. Taking pleasure from seeing animals writhing in pain isn’t sport. Boasting how many defenceless animals you’ve killed isn’t sport. Taking selfies of yourself standing over your victims isn’t sport. It’s just being nasty.

If you want to fully understand the definition of absurdity, look at the situation with trophy hunting. We have laws that ban or restrict trade in animal body parts. Then they say it’s OK for trophy hunters to kill the same endangered animals – because trophies are a hunter’s ‘personal or household effects’. It’s absurd!

Right now in Britain if you shoot a cat for a laugh you could go to prison. But if you’re a trophy hunter and shoot a big cat you could get a prize. Are we going to have to wait until lions go extinct and then say – ‘Oh yeah, maybe we shouldn’t have let this carry on’? Scientists say lions could soon be gone from the wild. Are we seriously ready to just let that happen?

But we can’t just ban trophy hunting of endangered animals. All trophy hunting needs to stop. No animal is more or less worthy of dignity. A trophy hunter who shoots an eland is just as much of a psycho as one who shoots an elephant. It’s just as wrong to kill a reindeer for kicks as it is to kill a rhino. We need to get it into our heads that we are not supreme beings, we don’t have the right to murder living creatures for entertainment, and that there’s no excuse for animal abuse.

We must halt the slide while there is time – by Sir David Jason

Like many people in our country, I am a big animal lover and detest all forms of animal cruelty.

For me, trophy hunting is possibly the worst and most senseless kind of animal cruelty.

I cannot understand what pleasure someone can get from killing an animal for kicks.

How can you kill an animal that’s been bred in a cage just to be shot for a ‘trophy’? How can you shoot a defenceless animal from 200 yards and call that ‘sport’?

Trophy hunters are given awards for killing the most animals with ‘novelty’ weapons. They shoot elephants and hippos with bows and arrows and handguns, and get prizes for it.

British hunters are permitted to kill giraffes and zebras and bring home their heads and skins to decorate their homes with.

They are allowed to kill tame lions and leopards in enclosures the animals cannot escape from – just so they can smile and pose for a photo next to their victim.

No wonder people in Britain are angry and want trophy hunting banned.

I cannot understand why this is still legal. We constantly hear we are in the middle of an extinction crisis. Yet laws to protect vulnerable species don’t apply to trophy hunters.

An investigation by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting shows there are less than 7,000 cheetahs left on earth. There are fewer than 5,000 black rhinos. If trophy hunting is your hobby, though, you can get a permit to kill them and bring their body parts home to show off.

It seems we are condemning wildlife to not just a cruel death but also to a needless extinction.

We must halt the slide while there is still time. How can any living species hunt another for a trophy?

Boniface Mpario – Senior Elder, Maasai

I was born in the Maasai Mara in southwestern Kenya. I lived in a typical village and would look after the livestock. I grew up with wildlife all around me.

When I was a boy, I became very close to a small bat-eared fox. We used to have some in the fields where I would look after the sheep and goats. I used to play with him. He would run around me and then run into a hole in the ground. I would run around with him.

It makes me feel sick that trophy hunters, including from Britain, go to Africa to shoot bat-eared foxes for fun. It’s my favourite animal. Knowing that some people shoot them for fun is a terrible thing. I feel sick even thinking about it.

When you are a boy in the Maasai tribe, you aspire to become a warrior. Before, you would have to participate in a lion hunt to prove your warriorhood. When the Maasai realised we can benefit from conserving wildlife, we decided to stop any cultural activities that involved the killing of an animal.  You can now be recognised as a Maasai warrior without going lion hunting.

To shoot and stick a lion’s head on a wall is absolutely wrong.

The Maasai have increased the size of our conservation areas. More animals means more nature tourism which means more income for the community. The conservancies employ young Maasai as rangers. You get proper training so its creates jobs.

I went to high school thanks to money generated by photographic tourism. The share of the money given to the local community was used to provide an education for children like myself. Every single child that was in high school was sponsored with this money.

Thanks to this I was able to become a naturalist and safari guide. It was perfect for me, because I grew up among the wildlife in the Maasai Mara so it was very easy for me. Some children have been sponsored to come to the UK or go to the US to study to become doctors and engineers.

I hope Britain brings in a total ban on the import of trophies and the rest of the world follows. Conservation and hunting don’t go together. Nobody should be allowed to bring in anything from a trophy hunting trip anywhere in the world. There should be a complete ban. Go and hunt with a camera not a rifle.

If you can afford to pay to hunt a lion or an elephant, give that money to conservation. Go and take photographs. Leave the animals alone.  

Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE

It is 6 years since Cecil the lion was shot by an American trophy hunter. It is 5 years since the government first promised to stop hunters bringing back these gruesome souvenirs.

Trophy hunting is purely horrific and unjustified cruelty, however. Cecil the lion was in agony for 11 hours before he was eventually killed. US studies say half the animals shot by trophy hunters are wounded rather than instantly killed. A new book, ‘Undercover Trophy Hunter’, reveals that British hunters are equally responsible for inflicting appalling injuries on the same animals. This kind of suffering purely for fun is simply inexcusable.

A Survation opinion poll shows just 3% of voters favour a trophy ban on endangered species alone. A full 85% of the public – and 89% of Conservatives – want a total ban. A new All-Party Parliamentary Group which aims to see all trophy hunting banned has been launched. It is being chaired by a Conservative backbencher, Sir Roger Gale MP. Fellow Conservative Sir David Amess MP has tabled an early day motion calling for a total ban.

Trophy hunters and serial killers have a lot in common. It’s time the law dealt with them in the same way. Banning trophy hunting imports should be right at the top of this government’s agenda. There is overwhelming public support for it. A ban should be properly enforced with tough punishments for anyone who tries to get around it. Jail terms should be on the table. Fines should be heavy enough to be a real deterrent and punishment for trophy hunters who are generally very wealthy, and could be used to support conservation.”

Trophy hunting is an archaic, cruel and unjustified relic of yesterday. We need a comprehensive ban that is properly enforced and which is backed up by tough punitive measures. If we are to make a serious statement about repudiating this barbaric pastime, the government must set jail tariffs which reflect the seriousness of this crime against nature. 

Lt Gen SKI Khama, President of Botswana (2008-2018)

In this day and age it is remarkable that we still continue to witness amongst some people a mindset that dates back to a bygone era.

There are some in the human race who are trapped in a past that was driven by a dog-eats-dog mentality that has absolutely no care for nature and the planet we live on.

Such an example of reckless abandon of responsibility is demonstrated by those who advocate for the hunting of wildlife purely for sport and recreation.  This is evident with the governments that encourage it and by those who partake in it.

Those who pose alongside the animals they have killed, with glee on their faces and rifles in their hands, propping up the head of the slaughtered animal, is a picture of ridiculousness many have seen. It demonstrates a flaw in human nature which exposes a sadistic side to them that would make some terrorist organisations proud to have them in their ranks.

And it is a form of terrorism when you wantonly kill for enjoyment and pose with the dead, as ISIS often did with the severed head of their innocent victims.

With the decline of wildlife worldwide, and many species approaching extinction, all caused by man, how can there be justification in hunting? How can any government say they are fighting poaching whilst allowing hunting at the same time? What a contradiction – what hypocrisy.

But let us not forget that sometimes these decisions, which are detrimental to our environment and not in the long term best interests of nature, are driven by greed and corruption.

The downtrodden in this world, be they people or animals, shall forever be so for as long as those in power who are fed by power brokers are allowed to exist on our dying planet.

There will be nothing left for future generations to inherit and marvel at, if indeed there are many generations left to come, as we see the particles in the hour glass seeping to the bottom. There they shall remain as no one will stop the tsunami of destruction and reverse the tide by turning the glass upside down and replenish our world.

I call upon those countries from where these promoters of extinction come from to step up and ban the import of trophies and sanction this bad practice.

Bishop John Arnold, Environment spokesperson – Catholic Church of England & Wales

Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home”, refers frequently to the dignity and value of every creature. He says: “This is the basis of our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.”

This interconnectedness also includes the animal kingdom and our need to preserve all species. It would be clear from this document alone that Catholic teaching would be in defence of animals hunted for trophies.

We seem, perhaps all too slowly, to be recognising that we have a common responsibility with all peoples – our brothers and sisters throughout the world – to care for our planet, “our common home”.This means accepting the challenge to be responsible and knowledgeable stewards of the world in which we live.

That stewarding needs to embrace the physical world, with its climate, minerals and resources, and the creatures that inhabit this world. Nature is a complexity which exists with fine and exacting balances and where we intrude on Nature’s cycle we endanger species. We are learning about the diversity of creatures just at the time that we are beginning to understand how destructive we are being and that in this generation we are now seeing the extinction of 200 species every single day, in what is being called the “Sixth Global Mass Extinction”.

We need to urgently reverse this destruction. But there remains one notable exception to concerns expressed about the protection of the diversity of our wildlife – our persistent cruelty towards some animals in the pursuit of trophies. We continue to slaughter animals, often in the cruellest fashion, for sport and fun. How can we claim any dignity in that? What pride can there be in arming ourselves with guns to kill defenceless creatures which are no threat to us?

We seem to have become very confused about the gift of life, be it human or animal. There are arguments that can be understood, whether a person might agree with them or not, about the killing of an animal for its meat – but for a trophy to hang on the wall? There can be no justification in that, particularly when a whole species is facing extinction.

A radical change in thinking is needed, now.

Leading African Voices on Trophy Hunting

Paula Kahumbu, CEO Wildlife Direct, Africa:

“It is completely alien to the African tradition of respect for wildlife. Trophy hunting is, and always has been, a rich white man’s sport. For Africans, it is a symbol of colonial oppression. The idea that trophy hunting benefits African economies is also a myth – or more accurately a lie. Trophy hunting generates lots of money for a few people, most of whom are already rich. Local people in Africa are being expelled from their lands to make room for private game reserves.” 

Mordecai Ogada, African conservationist:

“When is ‘science’ going to address the obvious white supremacist nature of sport hunting in Africa?”

Pato, African conservationist from ‘Let Africa Live’:

“Killing wild animals for skulls, skin, hooves, and horns is not an African idea; it’s a western idea that destroys Africa’s heritage. Trophy hunting is killing Africa’s dreams. Trophy hunting enslaves us, makes slaves of our people, our land and our wildlife. Trophy hunters have taken Africa’s animals away from us as trophies, to decorate your walls! And then you try to make us believe you care about our animals and our people! ‘Trophy hunting’ must stop! Our animals are our heritage.”

Baka tribal leader:

“When the trophy-hunting company finds us here they burn the camps. They beat us, they search for us, they set their dogs on you, their guns on you.”

Chris Mercer, Director, Campaign Against Canned Hunting (South Africa)

“The only difference between trophy hunting and poaching is a piece of paper. If you are rich and white and you kill a rhino, you are a conservationist. If you are poor and black and you kill a rhino, you are a poacher.”

Don Pinnock, South African writer, investigative journalist and wildlife photographer

“In the face of such catastrophic levels of biological collapse, can we really permit rich white men to kill iconic wild animals and deplete the gene pool for sport?”

Marcus Roodbol, Founder, Walking for Lions

“Lions are declining at such a pace we will have nothing left in a few years. Have we ever thought what we will do when we realise the last lion has been shot or poisoned? What will we do when we sit in the African bush and do not hear the lion roar?”

Linda Tucker, Founder, Global White Lion Protection Trust

“Factory farming lions for killing is not a policy South Africa can defend, neither the old nor the new South Africa. Once vilified for apartheid, our country will go down in history for legalising crimes against nature.”