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RACING WILDLIFE: Is the animal rights movement racist?

Most fatal human-wildlife conflicts in Africa involve large and dangerous species like elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, and crocodiles. Trophy hunting is one of the main tools for managing the very same species.

JENS ULRIK HOGH: The Western lack of interest in human-wildlife conflicts in Africa is in stark contrast to the enormous media attention to trophy hunting in recent years. Everyone remembers ‘Cecil the Lion’ – an approximately 13-year-old lion killed in Zimbabwe by an American hunter in 2015… It inspired tens of thousands of outraged posts on social media and thousands of mainstream press articles. Hundreds of Celebrities and Politicians are calling for hunting bans or hunting trophy import bans.

However, the story about Kiambwa and his three young brothers – Ndoskoy Sangau (9), Sangau Metui (10), and Sanka Saning’o (10)… who were killed by a lion,… just as all the other thousands of human-wildlife incidents in the third world,… neither triggered the curiosity of Western press nor the compassionate outrage of western ‘keyboard warriors’, celebrities, or Politicians. Why?

There is a considerable gap between how the Western world prioritises wildlife and people in third-world countries, even strictly financially. Animal rights organisations of all sizes in Europe and the US probably raise upward a billion USD every year (in 2014 the 83 largest US animal rights organisations raised 483 million USD). However, the rural African population, who must live with dangerous wildlife, does not benefit from these funds…

When we dismissively shrug our shoulders while noting that fatal incidents with large wildlife are an unavoidable price to pay for human encroachment on nature, we tend to forget that the people of Europe solved the problem centuries ago… Yet, despite our history, we are blind to Africa’s challenges. Rather than showing will and initiative to re-establish our populations of free-ranging dangerous wildlife, we condemn successful African methods to protect theirs…

It is relevant to point out the disparity between our emotional engagement in human-wildlife conflicts and trophy hunting because these two subjects are inherently entwined. Most fatal human-wildlife conflicts in Africa involve large and dangerous species like elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, and crocodiles. Trophy hunting is one of the main tools for managing the very same species.

In large parts of southern Africa, hunting tourism is the primary (if not the only) source of income tied to wildlife. The influx of money is the main reason rural communities tolerate living in coexistence with these animals. Therefore, hunting protects these species and their habitat…

Rosie Cooney, zoologist, and chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, is very straightforward about it. “There are only two places on the earth where wildlife at a large scale has actually increased in the 20th century, and those are North America and southern Africa. Both of those models of conservation were built around hunting,” she said…

Nevertheless, there is a strong call for punishment of African nations using trophy hunting in their nature conservation approach, simply because many voters do not like the idea of trophy hunting. Anti-hunters would most of all like to ban trophy hunting entirely. Still, in the light of the fact that international law prevents our Politicians from dictating the legislation of other countries, most popularity-seeking politicians are opting for a hunting trophy import ban.

In plain English, this is a trade embargo. Punishment for acting against Western public opinion… In Africa, a western trophy import ban will have the same effect as a local trophy hunting ban. Strong forces in the West still feel that it is justifiable to dictate what Africa must do. This is neo-colonialism in the name of animal rights and there is a surprisingly strong public support of this policy…

In September, Survation ran a survey ordered by the IUCN on the subject. There were 2,164 UK respondents. Among other questions, the survey asked the respondents to answer this: “If, with regard to trophy hunting bans, the goals of animal rights organisations clashed with the goals of human rights organisations, which do you think should be prioritised?”

When confronted by this dilemma, 47 percent of the respondents answered that animal rights are most important, 26 percent answered that neither should be prioritised, and only 19 percent thought that human rights should be considered more important than animal rights. The rest didn’t know what to answer.

Apparently, more than twice as many people in the UK think that animal rights are more important than human rights than the other way around. At least, this seems to be the situation in the ongoing debate about trophy hunting in third world countries… Closer to home, the attitude seems to be different. One example of this is the massive amount of media coverage following a case of a fox, a rat, a seagull, or any other animal attacking human beings in our own countries…

Did you know that German hunters kill more than a million roe deer every year, and in France, the authorities want the hunters to kill around 900,000 wild boar this season?… It is becoming increasingly hard to dismiss that the heartfelt love that a lot of well-meaning people in the West feel for their favorite iconic wild animals has a dark neo-colonial and racist flipside. SOURCE…

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