Hastings on Food

2015-08-13 06:00

SALUTATIONS. I hope you have had the misfortune of seeing online a picture of Rebecca Francis, a mother of eight, lying with a smug look next to a giraffe she killed in 2010.

I am certain you were disgusted by it. Francis has slaughtered everything from bears, moose, bighorn rams, zebra, lynx and antelopes. She defends her giraffe kill saying the circumstances were unique as she was offered by locals the opportunity and is grateful to have been a part of something good and does not for one second regret her actions as she chose to honour its life.

Five years later, the comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted his outrage. The response he got was formidable, but not earth-shattering, people responded but his good intentions did not gain the momentum they deserved.

In 2013 another kill came to light when TV presenter Melissa Bachman, an avid pro hunter, posted a picture of her smiling self with an impressive lion she had just shot, her words were an incredible “day hunting in South Africa! stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion … What a hunt’’

Here again the response was mixed, with result Bachman had to close her twitter account.

According to her she was doing something legal, with a permit from the South African authorities, enabling her to go on a hunt that cost thousands of dollars.

Then there was Cecil, a beloved 13-year-old lion who will never know just how famous he has become after he was killed by Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, who paid $55 000 to a company to hunt him. The lion is tantamount with wild Africa however, with illegal killing, habitat loss, etc., they are endangered, are on the brink of extinction. In the past 40 years lion populations have dwindled from around 200 000 to fewer than 30 000. They have vanished from over 80% of their historic habitat and lion experts claim they will be gone by 2030.

Every year foreign hunters kill over 660 lions in Africa for trophies. This amounts to two per day so it’s highly likely that more lions have been killed since Cecil.

The theory that funds from trophy hunting goes directly into conservation and local communities is questionable. A report by the international fund for animal welfare stated that hunting companies contribute only three percent of their revenues to communities living in hunting areas, and that revenues from trophy hunting accounted for 0.27% or less of the GDP of each African country in which it is conducted.

Despite this, many hunters and researchers argue that hunting is in essence a rich man’s sport and can funnel funds into conservation initiatives,

Statistics indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa there are 5 382 265 square miles that is used for hunting tourism, an area far greater than all the national parks.

Hunters pay prices ranging from $24 000 up to $75 000 per trophy species, or amounts such as $350 000 paid by an American to kill an endangered black rhino.

However, lion hunting is not the only aspect threatening their population, they could disappear more rapidly due to the demand for lion bones in Asia. In illicit auctions in China the increasing demand for lion-bone wine, a bogus sex and cure all potion, has escalated exports of lion bones by 250%, with a complete skeleton selling for as much as $9 000, the poaching of lions is escalating

So why is Palmer been targeted, why has he become a figure of global outrage? He is certainly not the only person to have stalked and killed a lion in Africa. He has hunted many times before. He has since apologised, will co-operate fully with the authorities and claims he did not know the hunt was illegal.

It appears he has been targeted because the lion was well known, had a name and was admired by a great many individuals. Does this mean we should name all our wild animals in order to get a response? If Francis had killed Dolly the giraffe, or Bachman Simba the lion, what would the reaction have been?

So while the actions of Palmer are deplorable and his livelihood reputation and freedom are threatened, perhaps he should be given a medal, and have global tours with ticket parades, etc.

Following a petition which gained over one million signatures, the Zimbabwe government has, with immediate effect, suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in areas outside of Hwange National Park. In future hunters will only be allowed if authorised in writing by the director general.

Another petition calling on the Obama administration to send Palmer to Zimbabwe to face justice gained over 100 000 signatures in one day. Any petition that reaches over 100 000 signatures requires a response from the government.

British Airways, Virgin Airlines and some American carriers have said they will not allow the transportation of any animal trophies nor known hunting parties. Cecil’s image has been beamed onto the Empire State Building in New York to create awareness of the injustice of big game hunting. He has been resurrected by the largest plush toy company in the world as a cute beanie baby, with 100% of the sales profits earmarked for the wildlife conservation research unit at Oxford University.

But the tragic death of one lion belies a much more widespread serious problem affecting wildlife in general

Remember every 13 hours a rhino is poached in southern Africa

Perhaps the worst part is that since 1969, yes, when we went to the moon, exotic meat including lion can be delivered to your door anywhere in the United States or Canada. The current prices for lion delivered in the U.S. and Canada are very high, with five kilograms of shoulder roast selling for $2 299, one five-kilogram of leg roast $1 500 and lion mince goes for $500 for 500 grams.

More alarmingly, the same company offers its products wholesale to restaurants and hotels, including bear, bobcat, flamingo, iguana, otter, rattlesnake, shark, turtle, and zebra. Surely this in itself should be deemed illegal as there are many endangered species on their lists.

At least many would-be hunters will take heed of the consequences Palmer is enduring and realise he has become an example of what not to do.

Apologies about the recipe.


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