Wandering Off the Trail: Arrogance, Cynicism and Bloodlust

The contest to kill an endangered black rhino has taken place, and an animal has been killed by a man who paid $350,000 for the “rights” to do so.

I jotted down some quick thoughts last night, when I heard the news. I had intended to polish them a bit, but instead I’ll let them stand as they are, as raw as my emotions were and are regarding this subject…

We’re told that it takes large sums of money to protect wildlife from poachers, and the money from this contest will go towards protecting wildlife in the African Republic of Namibia. We’re also told that removing this particular animal from the herd could possibly improve the overall health of the herd – it was an older male, beyond breeding age, that was aggressive towards younger males. Let us say for the moment that killing this particular animal is in fact good for the population, as some experts have suggested. The culling of an animal done to improve the overall health of the population is – or should be – a serious scientific endeavor. It should not be turned into a contest, a prize that goes to the highest bidder. Implicit in the selling of such a contest is that it’s fun and exciting to kill exotic animals. If fun and excitement were not what the contest was selling, then why would someone be so eager to pay $350,000 to pull the trigger? If that winner is in fact a devoted conversationalist, as he claims, and he cares deeply for the plight of the black rhino, then why not simply donate the $350,000? Why not allow a trained game warden to do his job, and remove the animal from the herd? Why did the winner of the contest feel the need to pull the trigger himself, if this was only about conservation? Make no mistake, this contest had little to do with conservation. That claim, along with the delivery of rhino meat to a poor village, was nothing more than window dressing, cover to blunt criticism of the barbaric act of trophy hunting. The horns and hide of the rhino killed will be shipped back to America, to be stuffed and put on display. How does that convey respect for wildlife? The irony is, if it weren’t for the people who derive pleasure from killing for “sport” and for “trophies,” and those who harvest animal parts for “medicinal” purposes, we wouldn’t need to raise huge sums of money to protect wildlife from poaching. At least there’s a “purpose” – foolhardy as it is – behind the act of killing for medicinal purposes, a purpose other than the disturbing derivation of pleasure from killing another living creature to display it’s remains in your den. This “contest” merely perpetuates the twisted notion that killing animals for sport is thrilling and noble – a notion that should be relegated to the dustbin of history, like slavery, or arraigned marriages. Hunting for sport, hunting for trophies, is little more than a manifestation of human arrogance. Whatever good the money and meat from this contest does is erased by the outdated and dangerous message it sends – that man is different, apart from and above nature, and that the natural world exists for us to plunder. Or in this case, for our amusement and cheap, bloodlust thrills.

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