‘Undercover Trophy Hunter’ | Trophy Hunters lose the public vote – again

As we wrote in a post back in May 2020 reviewing Trophy Hunters Exposed (Inside the Big Game Industry, “In a remarkably short time Eduardo Goncalves 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. And “Trophy Hunters Exposed: Inside the Big Game Industry” slams into trophy hunting with the force of a meteorite.”

Perhaps now the most prolific campaigning author in the UK, ‘Undercover Trophy Hunter- Britain’s Top Twenty Hunters Revealed’ is the result of a year-long investigation by Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting‘s (CBTH) founder – and his fourth book in a few short years. In its pages are the identities of Britain’s so-called ‘top’ trophy hunters, and lists of the animals they have shot and had stuffed to hang on the wall as glassy-eyed, lifeless trophies or skinned to decorate their floors. As touched on by Eduardo in previous books, ‘Undercover’ reveals that – like Cecil the Lion, who died six years ago today 10 hours after being wounded by an American dentist – many of these animals will have experienced extreme suffering after being critically injured but not killed outright.

Despite the abhorrence that is trophy hunting, Eduardo and CBTH are not everyone’s cup of tea. Some conservationists say that he presents too black-and-white a picture, ignoring the importance of land use issues for example, while wilder elements even make baseless claims on social media that Eduardo and other campaigners are making huge sums of money off the back of their work. Putting aside the facts that trophy hunting is hardly the preserve of the poor – it tends only to be wealthy people that can afford to jet across the world simply to kill lions etc – and that most of us expect to be paid for the work that we do, even were Eduardo some sort of self-made millionaire, it is the hunters themselves that reinforce the public revulsion that has led to polling in the UK suggesting that a huge majority want to see the end of trophy hunting and Conservative backbencher Sir David Amess MP to table an Early Day Motion calling for a total ban on trophy imports and for law-breakers to face jail:

 

The proof of that statement is there in ‘Undercover Trophy Hunter’, where Eduardo relates some of the disturbing and gobsmackingly insensitive comments made by British trophy hunters, comments which include joyful descriptions of the wounds they inflict on animals.

  •  “Bright red blood was sprayed everywhere with pieces of tissue mixed in.”
  •  “I could see the lung blood bubbling from the exit wound”.
  • “My bullet smashed through the rear leg removing most of the bone and destroying muscle”
  • “There was a lot of blood. We followed the trail finding chunks of bone”
  • “There was a pleasing amount of blood. We found intestines caught on the thorns”
  • “There was stomach contents on the ground and splatters of blood”
  • “With a broken shoulder and the top of the heart destroyed he managed to run 200m”

British hunters often bragged about their trophies:

  • “I have done 33 safaris in Africa. I’ve shot very good leopard. I’ve shot lion. I’ve shot very good elephant. I shot a 27-inch Black Rhino”
  •  “My two biggest elephants – 74 and 76 lbs. My two lions would qualify for awards, plus a couple of big leopards”
  • “I shot a MONSTER leopard end of last season!”

Hunters from the UK also spoke of the ‘thrill’ of pumping lead into small animals:

  • “We grab a few beers and have a bit of fun shooting the monkeys”
  • “You see something and you get all adrenaline over it and you pay anything for it”
  • “Shooting them out of trees with bows – really cool, really fun!”
  • “I heard the smack of a hit and saw it go down on its side, legs in the air. I was grinning”
  • “I shot a dwarf mongoose. That was tiny. I got a tree squirrel, all sorts of bloody things!”

 

This short piece is not intended to be a book review, more (perhaps) of a position statement. I have huge respect for Eduardo and his commitment to wildlife, and putting my cards on the table (I’m speaking in an individual capacity rather than as part of the War on Wildlife Project team), I have tried on many occasions to weigh up and understand the ‘alternative’ viewpoint of trophy hunting as ‘conservation’.

I can’t quite pull that off. Yes, there is no doubt that Africa is a vast, vast continent. Many African countries do indeed have huge populations under the age of twenty. Clearly pressure on land – and wildlife – is intense. Some areas set aside for hunting undoubtedly also protect local biodiversity. And it is surely true that eco-tourism will never bring in enough revenue to support estates that in many cases are not set up for the demands of tourists or so far off the ‘beaten track’ that they will never have more than a handful of ‘bed stays’ a year.

But whatever the ‘valid’ arguments (which tend to be largely binary anyway), it is impossible to get past the fact that trophy hunters themselves are a disgusting bunch. They are a self-obsessed subset and palpably have zero interest in conservation beyond having more animals to kill. Permanently willy-waving, taking smug selfies to prove how ‘influential’ they are in the world of killing wildlife and determined never to be inconvenienced by the realities of public opinion, they swagger around the planet, drinking beer, and chucking the cans and blood and the guts our way whether we like it or not.

And in doing so they disgust and revulse a public who can then never be persuaded to listen to anyone – no matter how rational – who wants to explain that while trophy hunting is hardly ideal it’s probably better than turning precious natural grasslands into crops or removing any cash value from wild animals that will simply be killed and replaced by livestock.

Despite the proclamations of both passionate pro-trophy hunters and those on the’ reluctant and looking for an alternative’ wing, this is not the fault of campaigners like Eduardo. This lies squarely at the feet of the gurning freaks who that (even if a psychoanalyst has not actually written the words confirming it) look just like psychopaths to the rest of us. Zero empathy. Zero regard. Zero concern how they look splashed across a newspaper telling the world how proud they are to have walked up to an animal and killed it.

Is that likely to change any time soon? Unlikely. These are people who appear totally self-absorbed, see nothing ‘wrong’ in what they do, and what they do is largely carried out in remote regions where they feel free to get away with almost anything.

Trophy hunting – in fact all hunting for fun – is repellent to me. I understand though that because of the way that we have screwed the planet over and refuse to limit our consumption or our demands, exploitation might seem justifiable to some. What is not justifiable – ever – is playing the conservation card to justify your own lust to kill, and bragging about your charmless antics afterwards. Or flying around the world to play at being Ernest Hemingway while shooting canned animals. Or tallying your kills in competitions run by gun lobbyists.

For those who will undoubtedly look to skewer Eduardo (again) for his stance against trophy hunting just bear one thing in mind – there really is no point whatsoever in shooting the messenger. The reality here is that the message is a bloody horrible one, and it is trophy hunters themselves that are happily putting that message out all over the internet…

With a little help from the rest of us – and Eduardo in particular – of course.

 

Undercover Trophy Hunter is published by Green Future Books and was published today (July 1st) priced £7.99 (paperback) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B098CX9XMQ and £3.99 (kindle): https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09661C7G1