“Big-game hunters and their big lies”

There are two reasons big-game hunters give in defense of killing the most beautiful wildlife in the world.

First, they say that their activities actually help to save lions and giraffes and rhinos.  The money that the hunters must pay for licenses and other permits goes towards conservation budgets of countries like Zimbabwe.

This is the first big lie.  Anybody who has regular dealings with a government like Zimbabwe KNOWS the corruption that exists.  Things with names like “permits” and “licenses” and “quotas” are for show.  The reality is, government officials are open for business.  Bribery is routine.  The farmers on whose land the hunting occurs — take bribes; tour guides — take bribes.

The hunters must practice keeping a straight face in telling the rest of us that their money goes towards conserving wildlife.  What are the chances in a place as corrupt as Zimbabwe that the money winds up where it’s supposed to go?

I lived for two years in Tanzania.  I saw the way things operate.  Just today in the news, fifty thousand pounds of ivory had been flown out of Tanzania and was finally detained in Switzerland.  Two Chinese men had hidden the ivory in eight suitcases.

Fifty THOUSAND pounds of ivory!  Tusks, horns…in addition, lion’s claws.  We’re not talking about smuggling a wrist watch past customs.  What does it take for 50,000 pounds of ivory to be harvested, transported, packaged and flown out of the country?  How many people in the game parks, in the police departments, in the government offices, among the truck drivers, in the airport at Dar es Salaam — had to be paid off in order for such an enormous haul to be removed from the country?

THAT is Tanzania.  And Zimbabwe is worse than Tanzania.

That’s the first lie that the hunters tell us — that their money goes towards conservation in these African countries.  These hunters might as well tell us that they’re making donations for FIFA to set up youth soccer programs.

Here’s the second reason they give for killing the most spectacular wildlife.  It’s a challenge for their spirit:  the hunt, the pursuit, the calling upon all of one’s skills, culminating in the “trophy photo “– the satisfaction of a major undertaking accomplished.

It’s just another big lie.

If they want to go out into the bush without any vehicles, then they may have a point.  Put your feet on the ground like any of the wildlife — with no sudden combustion for pursuit or escape — and no going back to “home base” when the day’s over but spend the night out in the wild as the creatures do.

Now we’re talking about a challenge.

But going out into a game park with a  land rover, equipped to the roof with radio, radar, food, drink, and high-powered weapons, and guides who use meat to lure the animals out into the open for you to pick off — that’s about as soaring the human spirit as shooting fish in a barrel.

Over 40 years ago, Henry Kissinger –as President Nixon’s National Security Advisor–went to Moscow to make preparations for the President’s first vision to the Soviet Union.  The President would arrive in May of 1972.  Mr. Kissinger headed the advance team to prepare the summit.

As a guest of the Soviets, Kissinger one day was taken for an outing.  He went with Leonid Brezhnev and other leaders, and they were driven to a game park.  There was a tall tree with a kind of balcony built as a skirt way up high on the trunk.  Kissinger was invited to climb to the outlook.  From there, they were handed shotguns.   What happened next was — some black bears came into view.  They were roaming around at the bottom of the tree.  The Russian politicians opened fire.

Kissinger later wrote he was sickened by the unfairness of it all — sickened at the slaughter.  The Soviet leaders — no doubt — took pride at being big-game hunters.



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