Guns N’ Poses: Altruism gone awry

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It’s been hard to miss the spectacle: The Donald’s two sons and a whole passel of dead African animals. A short video of trophy still shots includes one Son of a Trump holding a knife and an elephant’s tail. The hunt was arranged through Hunting Legends (motto: “Legends are forged in the crucible of Africa’s wild places. The legend within answers to the call of your hunter’s spirit. Don’t just be…be the legend”). Apparently the company is feeling the sting of criticism from legitimate conservationists, given this defensive post. (Sorry, but “The Trumps hunt Africa” page is password protected.)

Trophy hunters routinely attempt to cloak their ego trips in a facade of altruism, claiming that the dollars spent help native communities–and that natives are the beneficiaries of the meat. Said Donald, Jr.: “I can assure you it was not wasteful – the villagers were so happy for the meat which they don’t often get to eat.” He tweeted that the hunts control animal populations and the money spent contributes to conservation. But from the UK Telegraph comes this:

Matthew Scully, in his excellent book Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, offers up a scathing chapter on Safari Club International (SCI) and its mission of altruism, suggesting that trophy hunters need “to feel themselves a part of some grand and glorious purpose beyond mere butchery,” a need he attributes to Theodore Roosevelt:

SCI goes so far as to claim that African wildlife is of value to humans only because hunters have “created” that value!

“THERE ARE ETHICAL HUNTERS OUT HERE – BELIEVE IT OR NOT,” claims Hunting Legends at the aforementioned post. “Yes, we even hunt elephant. Elephant which are destroying their own habitat and killing themselves. If not controlled these very same elephants would have absolutely nothing to eat. They are destroying themselves, only because their (sic) are to (sic) many of them!”

What do overcrowded, underfunded Zimbabwean prisons have to do with wild pachyderms? Just last year the government suggested feeding elephant meat to prisoners, reinforcing the notion of elephant overpopulation, placing their numbers at 100,000. Conservationists dispute this number, claiming fewer than 35,000 elephants remain and that a state-sponsored cull would be misguided.

To understand the political and social climate in which Zimbabweans are attempting to protect animals, visit the task force website. The home page is titled “Zimbabwe’s Tragedy.” You’ll see why. It’s an uphill battle with numerous fronts, and likely no one is looking to “be the legend.” In this case, genuine altruism comes not from the barrel of a gun but from a strong backbone, a courageous voice, and the intestinal fortitude to stand up for animals against overwhelming odds.

This post also appears at animal law blog Animal Blawg, where comments are accepted.

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