It seems to have become a pattern now for the internet to periodically explode with fresh hatred for the professional hunting crowd.
It’s absurd. And, to be honest, it’s shameful.
While it’s definitely bad that Cecil the lion was lured out of a Game Reserve to be shot with a bow and arrow, tracked for 40 hours, and then beheaded and skinned for trophy mounting (I’m very sure that the professional hunters would term that “unprofessional” hunting) – I’m not sure that the hunting itself was the real problem. The way the hunting took place? Yes, definitely.
But the trouble is that the best conservationists are professional hunters. I wrote about this the time before the last time that the internet exploded with hunting rage, and then re-shared it that last time. Here’s the link: Let What’s Her Name Hunt Lions.
And here is the updated important section:
The Empirical Evidence
- In 1964, South Africa had a national herd of wild game consisting of around 575,000 wild animals.
- The safari hunting and game lodge industry began to develop at around that time.
- Today, the wildlife population is close to 19 million (Update: up to 24 million since I wrote that first post).
- White rhino, black wildebeest and bontebok were brought back from the brink of extinction by breeding programs on private game farms.
- Also: the South African hunting industry contributes R8 billion to GDP each year (Update: R10 billion to GDP in 2014).
And here is the direct comparison:
- Kenya banned all hunting in 1977 (sport-hunting, hunting for meat, everything).
- It has lost between 60% and 70% of its large mammals since (Update: it’s now 85%).
- Here is a paper by Mike Norton-Griffiths (an economic environmental consultant who presents a lot of papers at conferences) called “How Many Wildebeest Do You Need?” where he explains the causal link between these two pieces of evidence.
- Here’s a 2007 article from the Economist.
- And here is an awkward video clip from earlier this year.
These are not blind emotions – these are facts. If you want to save the lions, then you should be getting comfortable with the idea of professional hunting.
And successful petitions to ban hunting will do completely the opposite.
But perhaps that’s just me.
In the interim, another infographic (also a bit preachy):
Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and the corporate life in general. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha.
Andrew Fisher July 31, 2015 at 15:10
Thanks for your blog, it’s great that you’re promoting financial literacy and clear thinking about economics/finance matters.Reply
My response to your ‘Cecil the lion’ article:
The empirical evidence you give is not strong enough to support your claims that “if you want to save lions, you have to allow professional hunting” (i.e. hunting is causally necessary for conservation of lions) and the converse claim that banning hunting will cause loss of lions. In particular: the historical increase of wild game in South Africa may be correlated with the development of the private safari hunting and game lodge industries; but correlation does not imply causation. It is sensible to think that the increase of wild game in South Africa was caused by many factors in addition to the development of new private markets for wildlife tourism and hunting, including the increase of protected areas and a pro-conservation institutional and policy environment. So at best, legalised hunting was a cause, not the cause of increased wildlife in South Africa.
Similarly, the decrease of wildlife in Kenya may be correlated with the 1977 ban on hunting, but it is far from clear that the ban caused the decrease; it is even harder to see that it was the only, or even the largest cause of the decrease. Indeed, the Norton-Griffiths article you cite does not support a direct causal link; rather, it claims that the decrease in wildlife is multifactorial. The direct causes include illegal poaching and wildlife habitat loss due to the spread of agriculture and an increasing human population (page 43). Indirect causes include relatively low returns on investment in wildlife, due to a complex interaction of policy, institutional and market failures (pp49-50). Policy failures include (he claims) banning hunting. So the ban may be, at best, a cause of decreased wildlife; it cannot be the only (or the largest) cause. So it cannot be correct that allowing hunting is necessary for saving lions (or wildlife in general). Effective conservation can be achieved by fixing the direct threats to wildlife (poaching, habitat loss) with a combination of good institutions, good policies and market forces – the solution need not include trophy hunting.
[As an aside: the source of the infographic is NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation), the trade association for America’s firearms industry. Their mission: To promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. It would be good to tell readers that this source is likely to be biased; and the data not relevant to southern Africa.]
Now here’s a good reason to think conservation efforts should not include regulated hunting: trophy hunting is morally wrong. If the means (trophy hunting) to a desirable end (conservation/biodiversity) is morally wrong, then (all else equal) we should not use those means to achieve the end. A lot of arguments for trophy hunting assume that the practice is not morally wrong, and go on to argue that it is good because it contributes to conservation. But the moral justifiability of hunting is the very issue for animal rights activists, so in response to calls for bans on hunting, one cannot “beg the question” and assume that hunting is morally okay.
So why is hunting for sport morally wrong? There are many reasons, but here is one simple and compelling argument: sentient animals matter morally to us because, like us, they have basic and vital interests (remain alive, stay safe, avoid suffering) – note that this is not to say that they are as important as humans. If they matter morally, then it is wrong to frustrate their vital interests, unless this promotes comparably vital human interests. Killing lions for sport violates their (most basic) and vital interest in remaining alive. Does it promote vital human interests? It is hard to defend the view that sport, entertainment, or spectacle, even profit for a private game reserve owner, or contribution to GDP, are comparably vital human interests. So trophy hunting is wrong. [Even if the South African hunting industry contributed R10 billion to SA’s GDP in 2014, this is only good if it is assumed that hunting is morally ok. If human trafficking or dogfighting contributed massively to GDP, we would not take this as a reason to support these practices.]
I presume we agree that wildlife conservation and biodiversity are good; and that we need money for conservation. But we need money raised from morally justified practices; and hunting for sport is not morally justified. So we should promote conservation and biodiversity without hunting. This is possible (it is false that we cannot achieve conservation without hunting).
Anonymous August 12, 2015 at 23:22
Hunting is not morally wrong, see above link for a clear analysis. It would be impossible to achieve a true correlation because as you say, the factors are many and complex. It does make sense however, looking at evidence from around the world, UK, USA and other African countries in particular that hunting does more good, both to the countries GDP and to its ecology