On killing for pleasure and trophies

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As a species we are killers, but surely not for ‘sport’ or stuffed representations of our conquests?

Once, when we hunted through the forests and across the plains for our meat and there were only a few million of us scattered around the world, the wild was a larder of such magnitude that our impact upon it was all but insignificant. The getting of our protein wasn’t easy, however. It required strength, prowess with nets, spears, clubs and arrows and no small amount of courage. No wonder then that hunting and warring were so closely associated with the ability to protect and provide; they were the root qualities of manhood. In many societies, valour in battle and facing down a dangerous animal were important rites of passage. It wasn’t noble, good or bad, it just was. A few remnant communities may still live somewhat like this but, by and large, we exist in a world that is a far remove. For some it is a much more comfortable and secure place, but for most people it remains scary and hard. Now there are seven billion of us and the larder, although far from bare, is being emptied faster than it is being replenished. Who we are hasn’t changed, for we remain apex predators: killers, to put it bluntly. We do things differently for sure. The fortunate among us now hunt down our protein in the sanitised aisles of supermarkets, where the greatest danger we face is a maxed out credit card at the checkout point and the drive to and from the shopping centre.

The rest of humanity scavenges as they have always done. Some choose to live without meat (I am not one), but such is our collective impact on the planet that very, very few of us can claim to live without consequence for other biological forms. The point remains that we are killers. We kill by proxy for meat, we destroy wildlife and wilderness to make way for our needs and wants, and we even kill our own kind in turf wars on a local and global scale. It isn’t noble, it just is. Our nature is deeply rooted in our primitive brains. And yes, we kill to survive. But there should be no pleasure in that act. It is at this point that I diverge from those who hunt for sport. I understand hunting where the outcome is food. What I don’t understand is the need to hunt, not for meat to feed people, not for bone to make implements or to take skins for clothing and shelter, but the deep visceral thrill of killing something for its magnificence as a living creature and then displaying it, whole or in part, as a trophy. That isn’t noble and never will be.

This article was first published as an editorial in the October 2013 issue of Africa Geographic magazine.

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About Author

Peter has a career in publishing and conservation spanning more than four decades. His most recent project has been the development of Untold Africa, a meeting place for intelligent, engrossing and entertaining dialogue for a global community of like-minded people - people who share a common passion for the wild places of Africa, the creatures that inhabit them, and the breadth of African culture. See more

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