The Daily Mail has described Eduardo Goncalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) as “Britain’s most prominent anti-hunting activist”. Whether they mean that as a compliment is difficult to tell, but it does show just how busy Eduardo has been given that he only set up CBTH two years ago. Prior to that he was chief-executive of the League Against Cruel Sports of course (which, not that disclaimers are needed, is where I first met him), but Eduardo – it seems – has indeed become one of the most recognisable faces and voices in a movement arrowing in on one of the most cruel, wasteful, and disturbing examples of humanity’s war on wildlife.
In a remarkably short time Eduardo (who is seemingly everywhere and knows everyone) has brought together a broad coalition of supporters and researchers, become an almost permanent fixture in the media, and – it turns out – has also somehow found time to write a book. Or at least, written the sort of minutely-detailed, reference-packed work that an organisation like Ethical Consumer might produce if they were to write a book. Stripped of anything superfluous, of anything subjective or gratuitous (there are no images – can you imagine the hunters writing their manual without including selfies of dentists with dead lions?), “Trophy Hunters Exposed: Inside the Big Game Industry” slams into trophy hunting with the force of a meteorite.
Published today and presented in three parts, ‘THE’ precisely dissects the Industry (“one of the world’s most powerful political lobbies”), dispassionately lists the worst of the world’s self-glorifying hunters, before finally detailing exactly why these apparently sexually inadequate, delusional, ‘freedom fighters’ only feel alive when they’re killing something (in the name of ‘conservation’ of course). It’s all done so forensically. Fact after fact delivered like charges in an indictment. Page after page of condemnation of an industry that shouldn’t exist, that is built from an alt-right shopping list of God, money, gun rights, and machismo, a skewed eighteenth-century vision of white men sorting out the wilderness, and a biblical ‘dominion’ belief that animals are just there for us to do what we want with.
Eduardo doesn’t go in for such rhetorical flourish though, and ‘THE’ is all the better for it. There is a noticeable absence of opinion or personal pronouns. It is in essence a distillation of factual material, minutely researched and referenced, that brings together absolutely every good argument against trophy hunting. Trophy hunting’s proponents will seize on that last point as the book is unconcerned with presenting any of what they would see as the good arguments for trophy hunting. But, I would hazard a guess, that was never the intention. Eduardo’s response might be to point out that the industry has had years to lobby, obfuscate, blur, and lie, so why should he give their arguments (which revolve almost entirely around land-use) another airing, but I think it’s more likely that he simply neither respects nor agrees with any of them.
And why should he? Anything trophy hunters might trot out about respect for wildlife, local people, or conservation is undermined by their own words and actions. While ‘THE’ is not filled with what Eduardo thinks, feels, or has experienced, it does collate the most apposite quotations of others. There are damning lines picked from, for example, hunting forums, from unguarded discussions at hunting shows, and from the tone-deaf posturings of hunters on social media. There is an enormous amount of material in the public domain. Much of it no doubt resonates with fellow psychopaths, but to the rest of us it is just revealing. From glorifying trophy rooms (external representations of an individual’s total lack of empathy with the natural world) to organ-swelling gun porn (“…[the gazelle] swayed back and forth a bit and then turned and I saw the blood pouring out of his nose”), the appalling world of treating sentient life as the urinal wall in a pissing contest is laid bare.
Will ‘THE’ end trophy hunting? For all its gimlet-eyed focus on this ego-stroking ‘sport’, the answer is no, of course not. As the book details, heads of industry, the uber-wealthy, and sons of presidents and royalty fill voids in their lives by blasting holes in animals. Hunting has shored itself up with vast bank accounts, infiltrated legislature and conservation organsations, and is now chasing children to ensure the flow of emotionally-stunted gunmen doesn’t dry up. It sells itself as freedom, and uses an image of masculinity that appeals to a primal desire to slaughter that many of us acknowledge but have turned away from in disgust. More than all of that, it is about making profit. Corrupt officials have made absolute fortunes selling wildlife to the vainglorious. Trophy hunting will not simply lie down and go away, but much like how Dr Mark Avery’s ‘Inglorious’ stripped away the veneer of tradition and glamour that the grouse industry had wrapped itself in, “Trophy Hunters Exposed: Inside the Big Game Industry” does exactly what it sets out to do: expose, strip bare, shine a light that trophy hunting will at first sneer at but – as the evidence piles up – will ultimately be desperate to shrink away from.
Another question might be, where does ‘Trophy Hunters Exposed’ sit in our post-Covid world? Is it a perfect post-Covid book, arriving bang on time as we seek to re-examine our relationship with the environment and with nature? I don’t think so. Not because ‘THE’ is not an invaluable resource or primer par excellence (it definitely is), but because none of what ‘THE’ exposes is made worse by global pandemic. We already knew that habitat and biodiversity loss was destroying nature, that we’re emptying the planet of large mammals (especially large carnivores), and that unregulated trophy hunting (and Eduardo has plenty to say about CITES incidentally) is slashing-and-burning its way through whole populations of supposedly protected wildlife. Trophy hunting was horrible and self-serving long before the virus emerged, and the seeds of this book were surely planted almost as soon as Eduardo began gathering his facts and statistics for the launch of CBTH. There was simply so much damning material that it had to go somewhere, and a book that all of us can use as a reference or guide to silence or infuriate trophy hunters is the logical format.
Like all campaigns that tackle such complex issues it will take a huge, multi-agency effort to end trophy hunting, but those of us that love wildlife should be incredibly grateful that there are campaigners like Eduardo Goncalves prepared to stand so visibly on the front line. Genial and all smiles on the surface, he is like a human cruise missile, powered by cold fury and laser-locked on the appalling trophy hunting industry. I suspect the industry hates him. Which is perhaps reason enough to own ‘Trophy Hunters Exposed’, but more importantly it’s all the information you need to marshal your thoughts, talk persuasively to your family and friends about trophy hunting, and to rebut the claims of pro hunters that they do no harm, love animals, and are true conservationists. It’s important to note, too, that any profits from ‘THE’ will go straight back into funding the work of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.
As stated above, no single book, no single effort, can stop something as embedded and well-financed as trophy hunting. But have no doubt that each barbed fact, each truth, each honest analysis will unpick the threads holding this disgusting edifice together and convince more and more of us that it is dishonest, untruthful, and bereft of legitimacy. And that – in the end – is how it will be brought down.
(EDIT: Interestingly The TImes newspaper has today published an editorial (the same day as ‘THE’ becomes available of course) that blasts the trophy hunting industry and says that Britain should ban the import of animal trophies. This is undoubtedly an important ramping up in efforts to ban the import of ‘trophies’ (bits of dead animals) into the UK. An import ban is something the trophy hunting ‘conservationists’ have always fought against – which seems odd, given that they would still be able to ‘conserve’ the animal by travelling overseas to kill it. Or is it the impact of a ban on hunters egos that really troubles them? That’s a rhetorical question of course, to which we all already know the answer…)
- For more information please go to Green Future Books
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