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The bloody paradox of big game hunting

This is ‘Rockfig’, a leopardess we met in the Kruger.

Moth and I watched last night’s programme Louis Theroux’s African Hunting Holiday with great interest.

We went to Dongola private game reserve in Limpopo, South Africa, for our honeymoon in 2004. We wanted to see and photograph the animals. So we were disturbed to discover, when we got there, that for a price hunters could bag a ‘trophy’ with a bow and arrow. I wanted to find out more.

Private game reserves make most of their money by keeping native species that have been bred to be shot in wild conditions. Just like we breed pheasants and grouse in the UK and maintain their habitat. The animals which are bred to be shot are no different to farmed cattle, sheep and pigs, except that the species on private South African game reserves get to lead a natural life and are freed from a hideous final ordeal in an abattoir.

While I accept that farmed animals must be humanely raised and killed for their meat to satisfy meat-eaters, I cannot see how taking another animal’s life could be ever be considered (by a civilized human being at least) to be ‘sport’, ‘game’ or ‘fun’ in any way. Death is not fun. Therefore deliberately causing death cannot be fun.

Here’s the paradox which makes me squirm. If some rich, testosterone-driven person (usually American) wants to pay huge money to hunt and kill a kudu, for example, or other non-endangered species, he can. The thousands of dollars he pays for this ‘privilege’ goes to pay for the upkeep of the vast tracts of natural wilderness and the stocking of numerous species (which may otherwise be endangered) of large animals within it. This means there is ample natural habitat for many other species of small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects… It pays the wages of large numbers of local people who act as gamekeepers, trackers, drivers, cooks, guides, waiters, taxidermists, butchers, woodsmen, vets and cleaners, all of who tend to the ‘privileged’ paying killer-guests. It provides farmed bush meat for consumers.

If all these good things are the price we pay for this ‘hunting’ surely, within the madness of our warped capitalist society, we have to accept that it is a very small price.

It’s a sick world indeed which we live in.

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