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Hunting lions can help the species: a vegetarian conservationist speaks

I was impressed to see CNN publish something as unpalatable to their core audience as this:

Ending trophy hunting could actually be worse for endangered species

Amy Dickman is the founder and director of Tanzania’s Ruaha Carnivore Project, part of Oxford University’s WildCRU. She has worked in African conservation for over 20 years. All views expressed belong to the author.

I am a lifelong animal lover and vegetarian for whom the idea of killing animals for fun is repellent, and have committed my career to African wildlife conservation.

You might, therefore, expect that I would have been thrilled with Donald Trump’s suggestion — influenced apparently by media and animal rights pressures — that he could decide against the US importation of trophy-hunted elephants (and possibly other species such as lions).

However, I am fearful that impulsive and emotional responses to trophy hunting — no matter how well-meaning — could in fact intensify the decline of species such as lions.

[…]

People may find it very strange that there can be any positive aspect to hunting threatened species — surely any additional mortality heaped on a declining species must unquestionably be a bad thing?

The reality is more complicated. Of course, if trophy hunting is the main reason for the decline in an area’s lion population, then stopping it is entirely justified and desirable.

However, in most places, this is not the case. And if trophy hunting diminishes those other threats — by protecting habitat, preventing poaching or acting as a buffer between parks and human populations — then overall the threatened species could be better off.

20 comments to Hunting lions can help the species: a vegetarian conservationist speaks

  • staghounds

    That’s a good article from someone who knows her stuff.

  • Mr Ed

    You might, therefore, expect that I would have been thrilled with Donald Trump’s suggestion — influenced apparently by media and animal rights pressures — that he could decide against the US importation of trophy-hunted elephants (and possibly other species such as lions).

    It’s only published because it is anti-Trump, pure TDS.

    Meanwhile in Missouri, cruel and unusual punishment carries on:

    A poacher has been ordered to watch the Disney film Bambi repeatedly after he was convicted of illegally killing “hundreds” of deer.
    Missouri hunter David Berry Jr must view the film at least once a month during his year-long sentence.

  • bobby b

    Right now, lions are “the commons.”

    They’re getting trashed, as do all “commons.”

    Best bet – let people hold a property interest in lions. Let people profit from lions. Let people who have a pecuniary interest in lions manage them.

    It works well for cattle.

  • Runcie Balspune

    What a lot of people don’t realize is that many animals are shot simply as population control.

    In the forore when a rare Black Rhino was shot by a Texan who paid $350,000 for the privilege, was a case where the animal was due to be shot as it got too old and actually threatened the gene pool by attacking younger males.

    The choice was either the animal is shot by a ranger already employed by the conversation authority at a net cost, or shot by some idiot willing to pay big money for the experience (aided by the ranger) that can be put towards conservation projects.

    Full coverage of this from a RadioLab podcast.

  • Amy Dickson is another example of the truism that everyone is a conservative about what they themselves know.

    I agree with Mr Ed (December 18, 2018 at 12:33 pm) that the sideswipe against Trump likely helped CNN endure publishing it – but I note it is also a sideswipe against the media and animal rights activists, so it cannot have helped that much, especially as the mention of the latter in the very same sentence makes selectively one-sided (mis)quotation difficult.

  • Henry Crun

    What the report fails to mention is that CITES guidelines must be adhered to. The annual limit for import of elephant trophies into the US is four.

  • TimRules

    Insightful article, but It’s only published because it is anti-Trump, pure TDS.

    Yep. I can’t help but to get the feeling that if Trump made a speech aginst paedophilia or genocide, CNN, the Guardian, etc. would come out in favour of them.

  • Fred Z

    You guys have “Ducks Unlimited” in the UK?

  • Fraser Orr

    The thing about it is the trophy hunting just seems so unseemly. I see these pictures of a guy standing proudly over a dead giraffe, or a beautiful big cat, and it is just so tacky and nasty. Taking pride in the death of another creature is pretty ugly. Don’t get me wrong, I eat meat, it is a necessity, I think, and I am fully aware where food comes from. But I take no pleasure in the death of the creature who died. It might be needed but it certainly isn’t something to be proud of.

    The idea of a hunt or a fair fight is ridiculous. A man fully protected from harm with a powerful weapon. Why not give the lion a fair chance? I think this is where the schadenfreude comes from when a hunter is killed by his prey. I don’t share that feeling, but understand where it comes from.
    Killing for a hobby just seems quite unpleasant.

    I’m not saying it should be illegal, not at all. I’m not saying that the conservationists argument is without merit. I don’t doubt it is meritorious. I just fail to see the glory in the death of a beautiful creature in an entirely unfair fight.

    However, whenever these “boycott so and so the hunter” pops up on my facebook feed, it find irony of the poster’s outrage as he stuffs his gob with some KFC while sitting on his leather couch.

  • bobby b

    “Killing for a hobby just seems quite unpleasant. . . I just fail to see the glory in the death of a beautiful creature in an entirely unfair fight.”

    In one of John McDonald’s books, Travis McGee talks of the “man’s men” – the trophy collectors – who speak wistfully and longingly about the noble and beautiful and awe-inspiring animals they have seen – and then blown holes through. These are the guys for whom the rifle truly is a penis-proxy, and I think we all share a distaste for them to some extent.

    But they’re a small minority among hunters. They tend to be concentrated among the rich, who can afford the expensive guided hunts all over the world to the places where one finds the rare targets.

    Most hunters are like me. I shoot deer and pheasants and ducks and grouse in season, and I pull fish out of the water, and then I eat them all year long. Probably 20%-30% of my protein intake comes from my hunting and fishing.

    I also go out and long-range shoot coyotes and the occasional wolf all year round. I don’t eat them, which breaks my normal rules, but after you’ve helped put your third or fourth half-eaten two-day-old calf out of its misery in the snow after the ‘yotes got it, it gets easier.

    I’d agree that wasteful, purposeless, destructive hunting is distasteful. The men who used to shoot hundreds of bison every day just for the thrill – that’s distasteful. The guy who shoots many deer and only takes the tenderloin from each – that’s distasteful. The guy who keeps the fish he catches mostly so he can keep score, and then dumps them all out dead at the boat landing – distasteful.

    But if you’re eating what you kill, or if you’re solving problems – coyotes killing calves, lions killing cattle and kids – then you’re functioning exactly like the guy who sends the cow down the chute to the bolt-gun for your hamburger. You’re not doing something noble – you’re doing a job.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Killing for a hobby just seems quite unpleasant.

    We find lots of things unpleasant, but the hunter’s fist is nowhere near anyone’s face.

  • Henry Cybulski

    I second what bobby b said. But I did give up hunting because I realized I rarely managed to kill an animal outright with the first shot and it started to weigh on me.

  • Y. Knott

    A poacher has been ordered to watch the Disney film Bambi

    – Cruelty indeed. It’s said ( – which means, this is another anecdote that I have no documentation for, and the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’ – I don’t know…) that the movie ‘Bambi’ was one of the cruellest things ever done to North American wildlife. As farmers spread across the continent, they wiped-out the apex predators keeping the deer population balanced – as the apex predators had all said to themselves (in animalese, I imagine) “why go to the effort of wading through snow trying to catch a deer, when we could just sneak through that fence over there and enjoy-us some fat, juicy mutton?”, earning the farmers’ ire.

    So with the apex predators (wolves / cougars / bobcats) gone, human hunters took-over the role of managing the deer population; and after Bambi was released, hunting virtually stopped for over a decade. Come October, Daddy would drag his smoke-pole out of the back of the closet – and his li’l ones would weld themselves to his ankles, wailing “Oh PLEEEASE don’t kill those cute little Bambis!!!…” So left alone, the deer quickly out-populated their grazing ranges and thousands starved to death each year.

  • I also go out and long-range shoot coyotes and the occasional wolf all year round. I don’t eat them, which breaks my normal rules, but after you’ve helped put your third or fourth half-eaten two-day-old calf out of its misery in the snow after the ‘yotes got it, it gets easier. (bobby b, December 19, 2018 at 7:55 am)

    “Hunting for pot or pest” is the phrase in the UK (of those who don’t get off on PC virtue-signalling against it, of course) and you are not breaking that rule.

    Hunting for cull is another reason, as Runcie Balspune (December 18, 2018 at 5:17 pm) observes.

    Finally, as the OP reminds us, giving people an interest in animals may be important to the species’ survival, and an interest in shooting them, despite the obvious first-glance contradiction, can be pressed into that service.

    Hunting for the trophy alone is indeed separating the sport from all its original purposes – perhaps a bit like having a sexual relationship when never intending to reproduce. (Now there’s an analogy to get the PC going. 🙂 ) Like sport angling (which has never attracted me – I speak as the descendant of a long line of people who made their living by fishing), I judge it low – but hesitate when someone suggests a judge should be ruling on it.

  • John

    It is deer season here, and each (not every) morning as I pack up to go out in the cold my wife calls out “Death to Bambi!”

  • Mr Ed

    I was told a sad story about two cervids at watering holes. Have you heard it?

    “Deer, deer, well, well.”.

  • bobby b

    I’m guessing that this isn’t the version of Bambi the guy was ordered to watch.

  • Sam

    A few things from a regular hunter:

    -It’s very refreshing that CNN is publishing the very true notion that sport hunting increases the size and quality of the population, not the opposite. I’m sure most CNN readers had never even heard the argument, much less considered it.

    -RE “killing for a hobby” being nasty. Though I’ve never been on trophy a hunt I disagree. Bashing someone’s face in can be very thrilling, but I’ve never heard a boxer or MMA fighter shamed for enjoying their craft. Sucker punching a weaker person, however, is rightfully condemned. Fighting a fish unto dry land then letting it suffocate can be very thrilling, but I doubt most people would consider fisherman unnaturally brutish for enjoying the experience. It would earn people’s ire if you pulled a fish out of a barrel JUST to see it suffocate, though. In the same vein killing an animal is merely the thrilling endpoint of the hunting experience. Likely the hunter already appreciates the beauty and majesty of the animal otherwise there’d be no interest in hunting one. In fact, there’s far more appreciation than a butcher has for the 100th cow he’s slaughtered that day, though the butcher is not looked down upon by meat eaters. I harbor no ill will, even if I personally have no interest in shooting a giraffe, for instance. Though, those few who kill animals specifically to cause suffering deserve condemnation, and those people usually have psychological issues.

    -RE “hunting as a fair fight”: nobody goes hunting as an exercise in ‘fair combat’ with the prey. Hunting is using humanity’s superior wits against animals’ superior senses, and always has been. Deer will never invent the bow and arrow, so the fair fight you imagine is not possible. There’s also the issue of direct cost and the value of your time. Is it possible to take joy in tracking an elk for 3 weeks using nothing but handmade clothes and spear and going home empty-handed for the 4th year in a row? Sure, but not all of us can afford such a…luxury, and most of us would hate it. I understand non-hunters seeing modern hunting gear and thinking it’s too easy, but spend a few days, weeks, or years on unsuccessful hunts and I’d wager your human extinct to innovate would take over and the nearest outfitter would get it’s newest customer.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post – repeating a point that has been known for many centuries, but is buried in the insane P.C. age of today.

  • staghounds

    “nobody goes hunting as an exercise in ‘fair combat’ with the prey.”

    I don’t shoot game, but I do hunt the proper way with hounds and horses. I’ve broken three collarbones and a foot. I’ve seen two people killed outright in the hunting field, dozens hauled off hurt, and every year someone I know or two is killed or wheelchaired/ dain bramaged.

    We may catch one in 20 of the coyotes we hunt, although it’s more like one in five with stags and boar in France.

    We only use weapons the animal has and understands. It’s not one sided.

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