Our piece of commentary on African big game hunting inspired some spirited debate among our readers. We’ve plucked out a handful of noteworthy replies. It’s inevitable that you’ll disagree with some of what you’re about to read, because these folks are coming from all different angles. If you feel like you need to counter their perspectives, keep it civil. If anyone gets nasty on these folks, we’ll hire some Russian computer hackers to drain your bank accounts.
AC Will: The vitriolic public response to the Kendall Jones photos certainly provokes some interesting questions about our complex relationship with other animals–most acutely those relating to our use of them. I think it’s clear that a large proportion of people (across all cultures) approve of the harvesting of animals for certain purposes; but this acceptance almost always comes hand-in-hand with varying levels of reverence, respect and affection for those same animals. From indigenous hunters to contemporary conservation non-profits (some of which you mentioned in your article), this superficially paradoxical reaction to our own desires and practical necessity for animal use seems instinctual.
With that in mind, I think much of the hatred directed towards Kendall and other trophy photo pariahs could be partially explained by a subconscious discomfort with the incongruity present in these photos. Though I don’t doubt her very real respect for the animals in her photos, the ear-to-ear prom night grin just doesn’t display any of this respect to the viewer. I also get that she’s understandably pleased about her successful hunt, but none of that context is accessible to the viewer, either. Of course, we all have a natural preclusion to smile in photos–it’s how we’re socialized from a young age to respond to someone pointing a camera in our faces–but it may be worth considering how our ancestors presented themselves in photos with their kills. To quote a recent Facebook post from the Boone & Crockett Club, “[the ultimate field photo] shows the hunter, the habitat, and the animal. Most importantly it conveys a deep respect for the animal and a degree of solemness for what took place.”
Here is the photo in question:
Would the fiasco related to Kendall Jones have taken place if she’d conveyed the same level of solemnity as Mr. Phillips in the above photo? I don’t know, but I imagine it would have mediated the vitriol. Just something to consider.
Tom in Oregon: Very reasoned comments Steve.
I got to go to Africa last year. Hunting, fishing and sightseeing. The hunting was fenced and non-fenced. The fenced area was a 60,000 acre ranch. Both to keep poachers out and the critters in. I considered it fair chase. I harvested my Blesbuck and zebra there. The “open hunt” was driving for miles upon miles, spotting then stalking. I got my impala and warthog there. The warthog was after two days of sitting in a makeshift blind near a waterhole for two days. Loved every minute of it. Burning elephant dung like incense to mask our scent.
We were allowed to help with skinning, cutting and cooking. Wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I’m going back. This time to Mozambique to a friends 900,000 acre concession. No fences. It’s like stepping back in time 100 years.
If you go, try the blue wildebeest, it’s about the best meat I’ve ever tasted.
RKamimura: I figured you would post something about this. I have no comment on the subject mainly because i know very little on hunting in Africa.
The social media has been buzzing about the subject and to tell you the truth, I am rather tired of it and as a result, taking a break from Facebook because the comments on both sides of the coin have been rather nasty and malicious.
I live in CA (Ironically, Facebook is not far from where I live) and I also hunt. Also, I have friends who are vegetarian and also so-called animal lovers. These friends also know I hunt, but we all understand each other. Though our opinions may differ, we mutually respect one another.
As a result, I never post any pix of the game right after the hunt on Facebook. I do post pix of me cooking the game because we all share a common connection which is food. I feel if I do post pix posing with game right after the hunt, its more ‘in your face’ to people who never experienced or grew up hunting and it would be hard to get supporters in what you do (especially in CA). Plus, IMO if you post any pic or have a ‘eye catching caption’, the viewer’s initial thoughts/impressions/biases/prejudices start kicking in. The viewer is not going to take the time to read the ‘dissertation’ following it no matter how well written it is. Therefore, I take a more subtle approach to hunting with my friends and people I know: show them the end product at the dinner table and explain the story on how it got there.
Anyway, thats just me…
Samuel Fang: With respect, there are sometimes specific animals within an endangered species that need to be culled. That’s just how things work. An old male lion that’s been ousted as the head of a pride is *dangerous* to other lions. He will kill the baby lions of a pride in an attempt to become the new head of that pride. His continued existence, after years of breeding, is a *detriment* to the species’ genetic diversity. And genetic diversity is the name of the game in conservation.
In that situation, that lion needs to be culled for the good of the species. So would you rather have a ranger get paid $2 to kill that lion with a rifle or have some tourist pay $50k to kill that lion with a rifle? Because that’s the real choice in the situation.
Assuming the rangers aren’t corrupt (and these are men who regularly risk their lives and turn down bribes to protect these animals), we’re talking about a lion that would be killed shortly anyway, to PROTECT the species. At least make some money off of it, so the money can be spent protecting that lion’s progeny.
Erik Sarmiento: Take a look at India. It has a ban on trophy hunting, and still we are loosing the tiger and the leopard. Why? Poachers. With no flow of cash the Indian government must invest in rangers, money that could easily be paid by hunters. No creature has ever gone extinct with a regulated hunting season. Emphasis on REGULATED and SEASON.
Mike Hitch: I have mixed feelings on this one. I FULLY support the right to hunt and even the need for it to control animal populations. However, I am somewhat old school where I think hunting should be a true sport and we should use ourselves what we kill. In other words, I tend to not be impressed when anyone including this young lady use ultra modern weapons to kill from long distances and then post a picture and abandon the meat. I am more impressed by the huntress who used the bow for the kill but I have a feeling that the entourage of assistants and guides that always attend these high dollar hunts, made sure she was never in harms way. To me that is not a “hunt”, that’s just a cowardly taking of a majestic beast’s life! And I do understand the conservatism of it all or if the lion were a mortal threat to the people directly, but it seems there might be better ways to do that as well. Just another example IMO of how man is not such a good steward of Mother Earth. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I think however and so I don’t fret over it!
Team410: I’ve been to Africa 3 times for photo safaris. I have a masters degree in wildlife biology. I am a hunter and eat what I kill. I don’t have the words to say how I detest such photos of smiling people over the animals that they have killed, especially animals that won’t be eaten such as predators. I understand the economics of the hunt, as well as the economics of non-consumptive activities. Lions have severely declined in Africa over the last few decades and to have pics like these are inexcusable, pathetic. Perhaps the lions were fenced in…nonetheless, pathetic. This kind of hubris is what makes me sick about segments of the “hunting community.”
Denise: Bearing in mind that you are an authority on hunting, I found your reserve to previously decline comment on a topic because you lack experience was very respectable and true to your character. It is refreshing to know that a person can remain himself in the midst of great success and exposure. That being said, I found it perplexing that you would then so flippantly comment on something you do have absolutely “no great authority”. In two sentences you reduced the equal rights movement to the level of gluten intolerance.
Considering the fact that sexism, in regard to hunting, has been a topic of at least one other article that I am aware of and that you decided to lead with it in the Africa article, the subject is obviously on your radar. I am wondering why you choose to preface the issue with, what is essentially, an apology for bring it up.
The women in this country deal with sexism on a daily basis. It is inescapable. Consider the pay gap, the glass ceiling, the deficit of women in STEM and tech fields, the harassment of the ones that are there, little representation in government, the Supreme Court, female medical cost, inadequate female medical research, treatment of rape victims, unprocessed rape kits, objectification in the media… I could go on but I think that is a good representation of why the word gets “thrown” around as much as it does. And that just touches on what American women have to deal with. The situation for women in other parts of the world is far graver: rape as warfare, child marriages, stoning, honor killings, genital mutilation…
It is my opinion that the woman’s movement is at a standstill (maybe backward, if you consider the Tea Party agenda) and the only way to push forward, to break the glass ceiling is through men. Men of intelligence, influence, exposure to stand up for women (for our daughters) and acknowledge that sexism exists. You are obviously aware of the attitudes toward female hunters and the reasons; it isn’t that far of a stretch that those are the same justifications for keeping women out of the corner office. We both hope our daughters will have the world at their feet but it will take men like you, men with a voice in the media to say, “I have a daughter of my own, and I hope like hell that she becomes hardcore hunter and the CEO of a company and I pray that the attitude of others won’t make her hard because of it.”