By Annette J Beveridge
For anyone, like myself, who finds trophy hunting abhorrent, there can seem little reason as to why people would participate in this blood-thirsty sport. It can be difficult to step inside the mind of another – especially those who view animals as a commodity or a head to place upon a wall. But there are serious implications to consider. Trophy hunting is supporting the collapse of wildlife populations. Many animals – including lions and African elephants are on the slippery slope to extinction. If trophy hunting was banned, it is more than likely that these populations would recover.
When you think about trophy hunters, what is your uppermost thought? That they are psychopaths and one step away from becoming a mainstream murderer?
Is it that simple?
Let’s consider this. In nature, there appears to be no other predators that target large and dangerous animals. The risks are simply too great. Extreme hunger or looking after young could increase the urgency to tackle those animals that would not usually be targeted, but this is not for fun or for a trophy kill.
So why do people go trophy hunting?
Could it be the hunter gatherer instinct? This doesn’t necessarily equate either because if we look at our ancient ancestors we would know that the drive to kill would be for food or for animal skins. Bones may have been used for tools. However, it is likely that many hunts would be unsuccessful.
So, let’s contemplate the following:
There is a term known as costly signalling. We can apply this to trophy hunters. It is significant because it is all about status. Trophy hunting is expensive, and by participating, individuals gain additional ranking, more so, from the kill. They gain far more kudos than if buying a new car, or a bigger house although these are indicative of status too. Trophy hunting is all about the prospect of stalking and taking down a large animal. It is about the kill. The rarer the animal the better.
Trophy hunting is far from a natural way of being and it certainly isn’t to offset starvation. So, what can be done? More countries can ban the trophies from entering the home country. This may reduce the desire to participate. One possibility to consider is that we undermine trophy hunting by detracting from the gains, we shame them. This reduces their status rather than improving it.
It is important to know that many brand themselves as conservationists. This is as far removed from the truth as it can be. We should also not underestimate the extent of power behind the sport. There are incredibly powerful lobby groups supporting them along with influencers.
In my mind, there is a very strong link between those who gain an abject thrill from the power of the kill and those that would abuse animals. But we cannot underestimate the power of status. This may lie at the heart of it. Unless we strip that status down to its bare minimum exposing it for what it is – small minded cruelty, this will continue.