Stretch and Challenge

Posted: 18th December 2017

Trophy Hunting

Nell Dobson, Upper V Alpha, was one of the many participants in our Stretch and Challenge Programme this term, researching and widening her knowledge on a topic of her choice and then presenting it to an audience of her peers and staff.  Here is her essay, on Trophy Hunting:

‘Before I launch into a morally confusing speech, I would like to try a quick question with you. I have heard it is a good way to open a presentation and get you thinking so you don’t fall asleep during my speech. You are the driver of a train and you have to go down one of two tracks. One of them would cause you to kill one person and the other would cause you to kill three. Based on this information alone which track do you chose? Hands up for one, hands up for three.  Okay, so now what if I told you that the three people were elderly people and that one person was a two year old child. This morally confusing situation can challenge our ideas of control and what is right and wrong. No matter what we do, someone will die, there is no black and white in these situations, and everything turns into grey area.

With that thought in mind we come to tackle an issue with complications that make it hard to define it as good or bad. Paying to hunt an animal for sport is an idea most of us cannot fathom. To go out of your way to kill an animal is bad enough, but then to show pride in that murder with ‘trophy photos’ seems to show no remorse and no respect for the animal.

And yet, there is a counter-intuitive argument to this. Although their morals are questionable, and it is hard to understand why they feel an urge to hunt magnificent animals like these, trophy hunters are not the greatest threat to wildlife. In fact it is poaching and farm land that is decimating the population of animals in Africa. In some countries rhino horns are believed to cure cancer and sell for up to $28,000. How can we face a threat like this?

In response to the vast poaching industry, the governments of these countries set up organisations that manage trophy hunting, generally killing violent or elderly animals, and use the money raised to help fund conservation efforts. In theory this concept works, the money from trophy hunting is given to help the communities in the villages, encouraging them to help the animals around them; or it is used to buy equipment and staff needed to protect endangered animals from poachers. In Namibia the conservation scheme set up was funded mostly by the income from trophy hunting which was estimated to bring in around $1,330,000, 100% of the hunting concession fees goes straight to the local communities. Furthermore, elephant numbers have been increasing in Namibia showing that this method can work if done well and can be a real success for animal population and the community around them.

In other African countries such as Zimbabwe where trophy hunting fees have made a great profit, the agency states that the money has been used to help conservation and the communities, yet interviews with locals say they have not received any money. This means that owing to corruption and lack of organisation, animals have been slaughtered with no benefit to conservation or the community. What does this show? It shows us that these organisations have to be carefully set up to ensure as much money as possible is used to protect the animals it is going to use.

Can’t we find another way to help these animals? At this moment in time, many animals are so greatly endangered that to take away this source of money could be dangerous. It is easy for us in the developed world to look down on these government run schemes, but in many cases trophy hunting is the biggest and most important source of conservational funding. If that money dries up the risk of extinction for many species we know will increase dramatically.

So here is our moral dilemma, if we ban trophy hunting, we are potentially condemning thousands of animals to death. On the other hand, can we allow rich westerners to take part in the slaughter of animals for fun?

It is grossly unethical to allow others to go out of their way to hunt innocent animals for sport, it is wrong that the murdering of innocent animals should be allowed in order to pay for our mistakes. Our mistakes of continuing to hunt these precious animals for a new rug or an unreliable cure for hangovers has caused nearly 200 species to become extinct every single day. Because of our mistakes and ignorance we are now forced to rely on the profits of trophy hunting in order to save our planet. We must rely on killing our animals in order to save them. Is this right? No. But as the driver of our train, we have forced ourselves to choose between two unpleasant tracks, neither are easy, neither are better, neither are without a great cost. But it is our responsibility to choose, and whatever path we take we must protect these animals from our wrongdoings.’

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