Separating fact from fiction: trophy hunting

The BBC's documentary on trophy-hunting did not provide all possible views on the importance of wildlife as part of an ecosystem, says Catherine Bearder, MEP.

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Cecil the lion

When Cecil the lion was shot in 2015, there were a number of debates about, and protests against, trophy and big-game hunting © Wikimedia / Creative Commons

 

What was the documentary?

It’s called Trophy: The Big Game Hunting Controversy, and while it is quite interesting, it only gives one side of the argument. It’s a film about hunting, not conservation or the issues facing conservation.

 

What’s wrong with that?

It’s a very small part of the whole picture. For instance, it didn’t talk about how viable it is to breed animals for hunting. As a story about people who hunt it was interesting, but there should be a balancing point of view.

 

Was there anything else you didn't like?

There was quite a lot about the farmer [John Hume] who is breeding thousands of rhinos for their horns – what it didn’t say is that that’s monoculture, and the countryside around his farm should have trees, with birds and other wildlife like tortoises. Plus, it’s not natural to breed rhinos like that or to remove their horns – they are there for a purpose.

 

Hunters say they put money into wildlife conservation.

It’s a multi-million pound business, but very little of it goes into conservation. It sends a message that these animals are only worth something if a strange white man comes to kill them. Imagine how it would go down in the Virunga Mountains if a hunter came in and took out one mountain gorilla a year? The people who live there understand that the gorillas bring money into the whole system.

 

So, what’s the answer?

Nobody said that solving human-wildlife conflict was going to be easy, but hunting is not the answer. Hunters need to start understanding how ecosystems work. And we need ecotourism to properly pay its way – where that happens it does work and it will protect wildlife.

 

Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP. 

This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of BBC Wildlife MagazineClick here to read more of our 'Separating fact from fiction' articles

 

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