One of the lesser works on 1968’s The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) was The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, a song mocking an American who went on a tiger hunt during a spiritual retreat in India. The Beatles had been part of that retreat, and John Lennon found mixing hunting with spiritualism discordant.
One can imagine Lennon’s song-writing reaction to President Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era ruling making it virtually impossible to import some big game trophies from certain African countries. Though Trump reinstated the original ban last week, the caterwauling media – both main stream and social – made two things clear: This is an emotional issue, and few understand the connection between conservation and capitalism.
Hunting is a proven conservation technique, here and in Africa. While populations of elephants, lions, and other trophy-worthy African wildlife are dwindling in some countries due to poor land management, bad government, tribal traditions, and illegal poaching, in other countries the business of big-game hunting has helped to increase such populations. But after the Cecil the Lion incident a few years ago, journalists know they can tap a rich vein of emotion when reporting these stories. In the Trump era, journalists prefer emotion over facts.
At Fox News, Army veteran and former military intelligence analyst Brett Velicovich denigrated trophy hunting, employing class-warfare rhetoric and sounding every bit like the antifa morons committing mindless violence on college campuses. America has been poorly served by our intel community in part because of “analysis” like this. Velicovich used Zimbabwe as his springboard to attack those who believe that hunting is a valid part of conservation efforts. Yes, Zimbabwe has been a political mess, bad for man and beast under the rule of its 93-year-old dictator, Mugabe. But other African nations have demonstrated tremendous successes, and last week Mugabe was removed from power. I hope current intel analysts saw that coming.
For those who prefer facts over sentiment in their analysis, the reasons to support African trophy hunting are compelling. Even left-of-center media outlets have made the case. In 2010, The Economist reported that “Governments have mostly failed to protect Africa’s wildlife. But other models— involving hunters, rich conservationists and local farmers—are showing promise.” The article pointed to economic and social problems in Africa – not rich American hunters – as the primary reasons behind declining big game populations in some countries. To protect endangered species, “The first step is plain economics: a recognition that the wild has to pay its way.”
The BBC – no part of the vast right-wing conspiracy – published a piece in 2015 pointing out that with big game hunting, “the nuances of this story are too complicated to be understood by a generation raised on films like the Lion King, and the resultant Walt Disney sentimentality towards Africa’s wildlife, and who are all too eager to tweet their disapproval.” In the real world, the “Circle of Life” isn’t a poignant song; it’s bloody and brutal. It’s Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, not a cute cartoon.
Are big game hunters the callow cad immortalized by the Beatles? No. In 2006, a researcher in Kenya found that eighty-six percent of hunters interviewed for a study said they preferred hunting in areas where a portion of proceeds went to local communities. Nearly fifty percent indicated they’d be willing “to pay an equivalent price for a poorer trophy if it was a problem animal that would have had to be killed anyway.”
Even CBS’s 60 Minutes managed to air a balanced segment in 2012 focused on the rise of African game hunting in Texas. “How did thousands of Texas ranches become home to the largest population of exotic animals on earth? It’s thanks to trophy hunters like Paul.” The opposing view was presented by the delightfully-named Priscilla Feral, president of an international animal rights group. Despite carefully-managed and growing populations, she doesn’t “want to see [exotic animals] on hunting ranches. I don’t want to see them dismembered. I don’t want to see their value in body parts.” One can only wonder what she thinks about the legal practice of killing a viable human fetus in the womb by dismembering it.
National Geographic reported in 2007 that “southern white rhinoceros grew from just 50 animals a century ago to over 11,000 wild individuals today, because hunts gave game ranchers a financial incentive to reintroduce the animal.” The World Wildlife Fund pegs the current population at more than 20,000. That’s conservation capitalism in action. It’s a shame this complex issue became just another excuse to bash President Trump. The animals deserve better.
Ken’s email is email@example.com