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THE BIG LIE: Trophy hunting – can it really be justified by ‘conservation benefits’?

Advocates of trophy hunting, such as the World Wide Fund, argue that it can have ecological benefits. But just because trophy hunting can have the potential to produce a social benefit, does not mean the approach is ethical.

MELANIE FLYNN: ‘The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reports that between 2004 and 2014, a total of 107 countries participated in the trophy hunting business. In that time, it is thought over 200,000 hunting trophies from threatened species were traded (plus a further 1.7m from non-threatened animals). Trophy hunters themselves pay vast sums of money to do what they do (IFAW claims upwards of $US100,000 for a 21-day big game hunting trip). But reliable data on the economic benefits this brings to the countries visited remains limited and contested.

Now the UK government has announced it is considering banning the trade of hunting trophies from endangered species – making it a crime to bring them back into the country. Advocates of trophy hunting – including major conservation organisations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wide Fund for Nature – argue that hunting wild animals can have major ecological benefits. Along with some governments, they claim that “well-managed” trophy hunting is an effective conservation tool, which can also help local communities…

This argument depends in part on the generation of significant income from the trophy hunters, which, it is claimed, can then be reinvested into conservation activities… But it remains unclear in exactly what circumstances trophy hunting produces a valuable conservation benefit… This brings us to the question of ethics. Just because an intervention has the potential to produce a social benefit, does not mean the approach is ethical. And if it is not ethical, should it be considered a crime?

This is something of regular concern for social policy. If the evil that a programme introduces is greater than the evil it purports to reduce, then it is unethical to implement it. I would argue that even if convincing evidence does exist that trophy hunting can produce conservation benefits, it is unethical to cause the death and suffering of individual animals to save a species’. SOURCE…

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