Podcast: The Complex Issue of Trophy Hunting | Prof Adam Hart

“…I am for it [trophy hunting] in the sense that currently that is the model that is conserving those lands – but I’m for it whilst we actively seek other solutions and better ways…”

Prof Adam Hart |The Complex Issue of Trophy Hunting
October 2019


Back in December 2018 a letter – or more properly a response to a previous letter – was published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Titled, “The Complex Issue of Big Game Trophy Hunting”, the letter was signed by forty-five organisations and individuals. This is what the authors wrote:

It is heartening that so many people have strong feelings about conservation, as evidenced by the letter expressing a desire for a global ban on trophy hunting. However, this well-meaning call risks unintended negative consequences for both wildlife and for impoverished rural people.

For rhino, elephant, lion and all the species mentioned in the letter, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the global authority on conservation – considers that trophy hunting is not a key threat to their survival. Indeed, well-managed trophy hunting has led to increases in populations of rhino, elephant, lion, markhor, argali, chamois and others. The main problems facing these species are habitat loss and fragmentation, conflict with local people, prey base depletion and illegal poaching.

The letter suggests that nature tourism could replace trophy hunting. But tourism is a fickle industry (much more so than hunting) and only viable in some places. And even in those places it generally fails to generate sufficient funds to cover the cost of protecting land and wildlife. We need to keep more options open. Trophy hunting is a strategy that rural communities who live alongside wildlife (including many of us listed here) actively choose for wildlife management – alongside tourism, trade and other uses. Surely our voices and the impacts upon us should be taken into account in this debate?

Meanwhile, celebrities and politicians could better use their influence to address issues which really affect conservation, such as tackling climate change, funding protected areas, and aligning conservation and development goals.”

My name is Charlie Moores and I forgot all about the letter until one of its more familiar signatories – Professor Adam Hart of the University of Gloucestershire, a well-known and much-respected academic and champion of social insects like ants and wasps – became embroiled in a heated Twitter conversation on trophy hunting, after commenting on recent UK government proposals to debate a ban on the import of trophies taken by UK hunters and referring back to the December letter.

As so often happens on Twitter the nuances of the ‘for and against’ arguments became lost. However, I posed a few questions of my own, and Adam suggested I come up to the University to record a podcast with him. We focussed on the content of the letter and a more general overview of conservation where trophy hunting takes place in Africa.

I began though with something I’d posed in that original online interaction: that anger, even when it’s justified, is just not considered ‘scientific’…