Shooting lions for fun makes you an asshole, but the industry is a necessity

Although my day to day writing is news based, I don’t consider myself the most topical of writers. Often I’ll need to let a subject sit in my mind for a while, letting my thoughts on it grow over time before I really feel ready to write something down. It’s important to give ideas room to change and mutate, as it’s surprising what time can do to your most emotionally charged of opinions.

That said, with hunting back in the news thanks to one rather unpopular dentist, I thought I’d put digital pen to paper, as I’ve actually been reading, researching and writing about hunting for more than two years, as it’s a core subject in my next book.

Hunting is a difficult topic as the proponents and opponents are often incredibly passionate individuals. In one camp you have those that feel the very core concept of killing something for fun is abhorrent, whereas on the other, you have people who have spent their whole lives accepting and possibly partaking in a practice, only to be told by a very vocal group that they are monsters. It’s disorientating for everyone: for those that realise that hunting still exists and for those that are called out for doing it.

It’s very polarising and that means that tempers are heated and emotions are running wild, but as a philosophical Dutch friend of mine once told me, often with these moral quandaries, we need to look to the pragmatic solution to this specific problem, rather than the ideal.

It gives the species a much greater chance of survival.

With that in mind, my own feelings towards hunting are very mixed.  I’ve never been able to see the joy in killing something, even telling my old-man at a young age that I couldn’t shoot the rabbits infected with myxomatosis around our home because it made me feel sad. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think hunting is a necessary industry that I hope continues.

There’s a few reasons why, but I’ll skip over some of the more contentious ones to the main point: it gives the species as a whole a much greater chance for survival.

Yes Lions and many other animals are endangered to various degrees and there is a real chance that our children or theirs in turn may never see one in the wild. However, their survival doesn’t depend on whether we hunt them or not, it depends on their value to the nations they happen to live in.

"It still took an arrow, two days and several bullets to kill me. Motherfucker.

“It still took an arrow, two days and several bullets to kill me. Motherfucker.” Source: Wikimedia

Animals, by and large, are alive today because we allowed them to be or choose to keep them so. If there was a species of lion that exclusively hunted humans, you can bet it would have been wiped out long ago. Just as bears, wolves and other dangerous animals have been pushed into nature parks and wildernesses in larger countries, and exterminated in smaller nations like the UK. The same goes for cattle, domestic pets, trees, plants and insects – unless it lives symbiotically with us, it better stay out of our way.

Whether we can farm it, look at it or have it as a pet, doesn’t matter, as long as the creature does its job without being a threat to humanity we will allow it to live. Now obviously lions, rhinos, elephants, they all have a value as a living species. They can bring in tourist money, they can provide a wonderful insight into nature, but these animals also have a value as a corpse.

Hunting is going to be a necessity to keep these species alive.

For the often ungodly poor nations that these animals are found in, the money simply does not exist to effectively protect them from poachers, who see the animals as a quick way to feed their families for months at a time, from a single kill. The risk is huge, but the reward even more so. However, with poaching an animal is worth only a couple of thousand dollars when sold off to middle men. In the case of Cecil the Lion, he was worth over $50,000.

If a single Lion can be worth that to a community, to a government, to a country, they are going to be much more interested in protecting the species than if its only value is being gunned down and sold for parts. If a lion is worth $50,000, its ability to produce offspring is also important, so hunting it when it’s already sired many young and had a fulfilling life is much better than allowing it to be gunned down in its prime. That means protecting it from poachers is worth while. It means the local populace are more likely not to shoot it as soon as it appears near their village, because it’s their meal ticket for potentially generations to come.

Hunting can also be regulated. South African hunters for example, pay license fees and are restricted in how much they can kill each season. They have to do so ethically and often fund their own anti-poaching efforts to help protect animal stock. It’s their meal ticket, so why wouldn’t they?

The profession of hunting allows those that want to see animals protected and those that want to shoot them for sport, to find a common ground. The end goal is always to see the species survive. However we feel morally about the practice of cutting them down for fun, if it helps prevent lions, elephants or any other animal from being wiped out, it’s something that must be considered.

As much as it would be nice to live in a world where people only hunt animals they are going to eat and people didn’t associate shooting beautiful creatures with fun, we are far from that becoming a reality. Until tourism can bring enough money to Africa to support its entire population of animals – which may never happen – hunting is going to be a necessity to keep these species alive.

So while you may disagree with the hunters themselves, the practice of hunting is very much needed and in some cases, should be encouraged as it gives the local population one more way to earn money and in turn better protect their local environment. That includes the animals that live there

Unlicensed hunting doesn’t help anyone though. Fuck those guys.