OPINION — Here’s a little quiz for you: What do Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley, Peter Egan, Ed Sheeran, Dame Judi Dench, and Piers Morgan have in common? I mean besides the fact they’re all people you’ve never heard of. Except for Ricky Gervais and Piers Morgan. You’ve heard of them, because they’ve appeared in this column, although they probably weren’t happy about it.
I’ll give you a hint: they all have British accents, they’re all celebrities, they all whine a lot, and they’re all working real hard to kill as many African species of animals as possible. I guess they just hate animals. But then, you don’t normally expect a lot of intelligence from celebrities, and if you do, you’re generally disappointed.
Not that these yahoos are the least bit honest about their efforts to rid the savannas and jungles of critters. They claim they’re trying to help the wildlife, and it’s entirely possible they actually believe that. The problem is that they know so little about wildlife conservation they’ve come to the amazingly ludicrous conclusion that the way to save animals is to ban trophy hunting.
No, I’m not making this up. There are people in the world so obtuse they think hunting is bad for wildlife populations, especially trophy hunting. And when people opposed to hunting also happen to be celebrities, they seem to feel an obligation to lecture the rest of us about the horrors of harvesting game in fair chase. Lack of education is becoming a serious issue lately, particularly among hoity-toities.
And I shouldn’t just pick on British celebrities here, since there are at least as many American snobs who are just as astoundingly ignorant about wildlife and the essential part hunting plays in preserving it. Pick up any national newspaper, if you can find one anymore, and you’ll notice that the ink rubs off on your hands. It’s cheap stuff. You’ll also notice, if you care to read a few pages, that some actor or singer or comedian has been crying about trophy hunting again. I think it must be required, these days.
The celebs are going on television, speaking at rallies and fundraisers, and promoting petitions to try to get trophy hunting banned pretty much everywhere, but especially in Africa. They’re lobbying politicians to pass laws in America and the UK to prohibit trophies from being imported, and people are listening. Not smart people, but still. One such petition recently presented to the British gubmint was signed by more than a million people. And you can’t expect politicians to know any better. If they had any sense they’d have real jobs.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do a little research and find out that, when Kenya banned hunting in 1977, some of the wildlife species there declined from 70-88%. Thompson’s gazelle, eland, oryx, impala, lesser kudu, and warthog populations took a huge nosedive. The same thing happens every time hunting is banned, anywhere. And I’ll tell you why.
Hunters. Pay. The. Bills.
Income from hunting pays for pretty much everything when it comes to wildlife. In the U.S. there’s the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 which brings in millions of dollars by itself. It provides for an 11% federal excise tax on finished hunting products, and in case anyone is vague here, your peta and Friends of Animals members never buy hunting products. That money, along with hunting license fees and the funds raised from game law enforcement fines, make up over 95% of the money used to support wildlife. It pays for habitat acquisition and maintenance, wildlife research, and game law enforcement. No bangs, no bucks. You might want to write that down. I’m kind of proud of it.
In Africa, hunting is even more critical to the welfare of the beasties. Without the money from hunting, poachers invade and devastate game populations. Kenya is a good example, but there are others. Tanzania has a shadow of the wildlife that thrived (throve?) there before elephant trophies were banned from U.S. import.
And it’s not just the poachers. The African people see a wild animal as one of two things: either a threat or a meal. Over there, if it don’t eat you, you eat it. Unless it can be sold to a wealthy hunter, so the money can be used for schools, hospitals, medicine, and the occasional flush toilet. Don’t hold your breath. Or maybe you should, since plumbing is still a relatively new concept in parts of Africa.
So when our intrepid celebs, with the best of misinformed, misguided, and ignorant intentions, shout themselves hoarse trying to ban hunting, they’re actually killing African wildlife by the herdful. I just made that word up, but it fits.
Maybe, instead of banning hunting, we should ban celebrities. Most of them are pretty much worthless, anyway. I’ve needed doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, and painters many times in my life. I’ve occasionally even needed a ditch digger or a car salesman. But not once in my six decades have I ever had the slightest need for a celebrity.
Especially not a whiny one . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister who loves animals. Mostly grilled. Write to him at [email protected]