Why worry about a ban on importing hunting trophies when you can buy one at home? | Catherine Bennett

An alliance that brought together conservationists, African leaders, taxidermists, recreational hunters and the patron saint of upskirters, MP Christopher Chope, is rebounding after his protests failed to halt the project’s progress. Henry Smith’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Act towards proclamation .

These trophies being – incomprehensibly to anyone whose love of animals is not expressed by killing them – the body parts of the dead animal, brought home to be exhibited or sold. A recent investigation by the US Humane Society at a Safari Club International convention found, for example, “elephant skin luggage sets ranging from $10,000 to $18,000 and jewelry made from elephant claws. leopard”.

While the new UK law won’t stop recreational killers from hoping to shoot, say, a bull elephant (available via UK website Prostalk African Safaris for £13,550.00), it just isn’t the same, you’d expect, with no memories of the corpse to impress friends, or turn into luggage – or jackets, or bags. Even an ear, for the frustrated trophy lover, is better than nothing.

A few years ago, Martin Amis coined the phrase “species shaming”: there’s nothing like a visit to the websites of hunting societies, with their price lists and photographs of exultant morons who have fixed animals dead in submissive poses, to remind him repeatedly.

But even these enthusiasts seem sane enough to realize that they are not its best advocates. Rather, they trust African leaders and conservationists to redefine their killings of wildlife as a conservation tool, repeating the disputed case that recreational hunting (and any related body part acquisition) is a crucial contribution to biodiversity and, helping to fund anti-poaching patrols, animal protection. Although what is never explained is why, if hunters are so passionate about animals, they always look so delighted after killing them.

Discussions before Smith’s private member’s bill featured forceful and impassioned attempts to explain that encouraging the worst of humanity to kill the most beautiful of animals is somehow ethical. Ideally, it could even, it is said, benefit local communities.

Naturally, for some of those who benefited, British rebukes echoed earlier versions of imperialist control. “What do they know about the animals of Africa, and what right do they have to intervene in our democracies?” Maxi Louis, the director of a coalition of conservation groups in Namibia, objected in a letter to the Time.

Either way, it would certainly be appreciated, at least by some of us, if African politicians, environmentalists and influencers now returned the compliment with a reminder, perhaps via a round robin in the Time, that the persistence of recreational hunting is a stain on the UK. Few visitors to Africa may wish to return home with the skin or teeth of something they legally slaughtered in Britain, but that seems no reason why the African equivalents of Joanna Lumley, Richard Curtis and Liam Gallagher does not blame the native hunters who persist in pretending blood sport. is conservation, or, for its artier representatives, a Ted Hughes-style communion between man and beast.

Supporting the proposed ban on trophy imports, Sir Ranulph Fiennes wrote last week that “killing animals for entertainment and souvenirs is something straight out of the darkest Middle Ages. It is medieval stupidity and stupid. And that’s about as un-British as it gets. So it’s mystifying that killing animals for entertainment is so remarkably well tolerated in Britain, with apologies for amateurs usually coming, as with trophies, from the Cruella de Vil School of Conservation Management.

True animal lovers would regret, as ethical studies suggest, their butchery. They wouldn’t joke, as amateur feller David Cameron confidently did about it: “I find that when I shoot a few Boris and Michael, I feel a lot better.”

No one who respects animals would want to pose triumphantly with their kill or brag about the number of corpses. But contributions to British sports publications consistently dwell on the endurance of the hunter (in outwitting supposedly cunning prey) followed by frightening, orgiastic glee. This month, in the pages of a newspaper, we find a “retired financier” ecstatically remembering an open-air slaughterhouse – “pure bliss of the most chaotic kind”.

Budding hunters should not be too downcast by Tory MP Anna Firth’s statement in the trophy ban debate that “trophy hunting is a relic of the past, it has no place in the Modern Britain”. Because if you don’t mind having a little antler instead of elephant, you can book a stalking slot today. Training courses are available from the British Deer Society, patron of King Charles III.

A bloody parenthesis with Prince Harry Spare could partly explain why recreational hunters in the UK can still thrive in a nation of so-called animal lovers: we simply love our royals more.

At the age of 15, Harry was told he would “undertake the true stalker’s initiation” and sent to execute a deer. Appreciating this, he appears, for once, no different from his family. After his death (“I felt pride swell”), his head sank into the bowels.

“This ‘blood care’ was, for me, a baptism,” he says. “If you loved nature,” Dad always said, “you had to know when to leave it alone and when to manage it, and managing meant cutting down, and cutting down meant killing.” It was all just a form of worship.

With all the land there is so much relentless royal management that poor William was also hunted to guard the enduring partridges; we know that skilled deer killers were so rare in the field that before Kate Middleton was engaged, her parents had to be put into service. At one point, even Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein were required at Sandringham for a “simple shooting weekend”, helping nature.

Granted, the royals, like reviled American trophy collectors, don’t like elephant skin luggage, and they probably have enough deer heads already. From the hunted animal’s point of view, this may not make much difference.

Catherine Bennett is an Observer columnist

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