Next week The WoW Project will be attending a House of Commons (HoC) Reception organised by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (which would make an excellent answer to the quiz question, “Name an organisation that epitomises ‘does what it says on the can’.”). The event will be putting forward ‘Trophy Hunting: The Case for a UK Import/Export Ban’ and we’ll be reporting back of course.
What of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) itself though? Founded by Eduardo Goncalves, a campaigner who makes the Energiser Bunny look like a Lethargic Sloth, CBTH could show David a thing or two when it comes to taking on giants with little more than a slingshot.
Eduardo’s CBTH press-releases and emails show a campaign that is both laser-like in focus and blessed with a bewildering list of contacts and supporters that takes in everyone from Liam Gallagher and David Gower to David Jason and Callum Best. Invites to the HoC Reception are signed by veteran explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. With Carrie Symonds help even UK prime-minister Boris Johnson noticed the campaign and was moved to tweet “We must end this barbaric practice” (which while typically a little light on detail is at least a step in the right direction).
As a quick aside, at the last HoC event I found myself having a fanboy moment when I cornered highly-charismatic (and surprisingly tall) former cricketer and avid Rhino supporter Kevin Pietersen. (If you’ve not heard his 2019 series of podcasts, Beast of Man, with excellent Radio Five journalist Sarah Brett, which looks in detail at rhino poaching, they are well worth downloading.)
I tweeted this photo of KP on my personal feed and within hours literally hundreds of cricket-mad Indians had followed me – they’ve evidently been disappointed to discover that this was my one and only time at the stumps and have subsequently ‘left the field’, but it was exciting at the time.
Anyway, if CBTH was simply an (admittedly splendid) exercise in name-dropping it wouldn’t count for very much, but it’s far more than that. It’s a campaign that has caught the zeitgeist with both hands. Wildlife, so very many of us have decided, is not simply a resource to be exploited. The media too has recognised (through the work of CBTH and other campaigners) the public’s revulsion of the distasteful, self adulatory ‘selfies’ posed with the corpses of wild animals: witness how quickly so-called ‘toff’ Ollie Williams’ plans of joining the Love Island gravy-train were sunk once images of him smirking over the bodies of various animals he’d executed went viral.
Again though, simply showing a few photos doesn’t always lead to positive change and it’s to the credit of some media outlets that they’ve gone further than just using images of charmless ‘trophy hunters’ as clickbait. The UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper, in particular, has also regularly aired CBTH’s main aims: an immediate halt to the trade in trophies of vulnerable, threatened or endangered species; trophy hunting exemptions to be removed from existing international conservation agreements (like those monitored by trade organisation CITES); and negotiations to commence on a comprehensive global agreement banning trophy hunting.
CBTH has received some criticism that its message is too blunt and lacks nuance – that ‘trophy-hunting’, while admittedly not to many people’s taste, does have a place in some regions where land would otherwise be turned to agriculture and its biodiversity lost (as, for example, discussed in our thought-provoking podcast with Professor Adam Hart). However, a letter recently published in The Times newspaper (The Times – Letters, 11 January 2020) and organised by CBTH, was signed by an enormous number of biologists, conservation organisations, and campaigners and would suggest that – actually – at least as far as CITES imports and gurning muppets are concerned, Eduardo has it spot on:
Killing animals for ‘trophies’ is indefensible and cruel.
We welcome the government’s proposal to ban trophy imports and exports, and urge it to implement a comprehensive ban as quickly as possible and to work with other governments to end trophy hunting.
The species targeted by trophy hunters are social, emotional, intelligent beings. Killing them to acquire personal memorabilia goes against civilised values.
Trophy hunting has had devastating impacts on wildlife. Hunters aim for the biggest animals, resulting in ‘artificial selection’. The industry rewards those who have killed the most animals. Fees rarely benefit local communities.
Britain can help close this chapter in our history: trophy hunting has no place in the modern world. Policymakers should work with scientists, conservationists and communities to support economic development that preserves our natural heritage.