“Shot while sleeping. Died in agony.”
“It took six shots to finally kill him.”
“We followed the blood trail…”
Often we focus on the number of beautiful animals killed by trophy hunters. Although mentioned we frequently forget the pain and suffering of the targeted animal. Trophy hunters it seems are not always ‘good’ hunters. Meaning they aren’t necessarily skilled in killing an animal with one bullet, or arrow, as the case may be in bow hunting.
The story that triggered my writing about this was the US trophy hunter who supposedly killed a lion while sleeping. Yes sleeping!? Apparently the lion was not killed instantly and died a slow, painful death. (Sorry, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video or read the gut wrenching details.) It’s enough to know that a pompous American trophy hunter out for another ‘notch on his gun’ shot at a sleeping lion and only injured him on his first try.
Then there was the time at the restaurant. I was accessing the internet at the place we were camped and I overheard a troubling conversation. A fella in bush garb was explaining itinerary details to a chubby pale skinned man. “The elephants have big tusks in this area. There’s also a large leopard. I’ve told the guys to put out some bait.” Are snippets that made my skin crawl and my blood pressure rise.
Then to clinch it, in that unmistakable American accent the chubby one asked, “Will there be internet at the camp?” I could only guess he was eager to get that photo with him beside his dead prize uploaded and shared!
I couldn’t stand it any longer. There right across the empty restaurant from me was one of those egotistical ‘great white American hunters.’
Yes, I approached the men. I tried to be calm and for the most part I was. My premise always is if we really care about wildlife conversation we don’t have to pay to kill an animal… we can simply donate the money to assist in keeping them alive. After a few steely, cool exchanges the American left without excusing himself, leaving the South African professional hunter and I to chat.
After both of us digging in our heels in our respective corners, and not getting anywhere, I turned the conversation to a common ground topic… How to stop wildlife poaching. After all, trophy hunters are very concerned about losing animals, this equates to losing money. As expected, this redirect allowed us to have a more cordial and civil conversation. From my vantage point shouting matches and angry arguments don’t accomplish much.
However, looking back I wish I’d been more tuned into the Animal Welfare angle, to the distress a hunted animal experiences. Had I been, I would have asked the professional trophy hunter about that. Would have asked him what he does when his client is a bad aim? What he does when his client’s bullet only injures and the animal writhes in pain? What he does if the animal slinks of into the bush and they have to pursue? Would have asked him how many bullets it usually takes to put the animal out of its misery?
Those who are for trophy hunting conjure up supposed benefits for wildlife conservation. Benefits such as infusing money, stimulating the breeding of wildlife, taking out the old and so on. (There is of course a flip side to each of these.) However, for our purposes here, what about the animal welfare issue? What about the individual animal that is being hunted? What about that animal’s terrifying and frequently agonizing last moments… or hours? Shouldn’t this alone weigh heavily against the morality (and logic) of trophy hunting as wildlife conservation?