Here is a fascinating story that appeared in The Revelator last week. It was written by Melissa Gaskill, and it covers a fierce debate within the scientific community about the importance of trophy hunting.
As Gaskill reports, Dr. Amy Dickman of the University of Oxford’s WildCRU, along with four co-authors and 128 signatories, kicked off this debate when they published a letter in the journal Science. In this letter – which is not accessible to the public – Dickman and her co-authors claimed that banning trophy hunting would be detrimental for wildlife conservation, partly because trophy hunting is less harmful than wanton slaughter.
According to The Revelator, multiple conservation scientists then submitted letters of their own refuting Dickman et al.’s claims. Their points included:
- Trophy hunting does not always lead to good conservation.
- Local people often receive only a tiny percentage of the revenues from trophy hunting.
- Trophy hunting is unethical.
- There are alternatives to trophy hunting; and, rather than rely so strongly on one method to fund conservation, we should use several methods.
The Dickman letter also suffers from potential conflicts of interest. Some of the individuals who signed the letter have ties to pro-hunting organizations, which means they have vested interests in keeping trophy hunting at the forefront of conservation.
I was genuinely surprised by some of the information in Gaskill’s article. I have heard Dickman et al.’s argument, that trophy hunting is crucial for conservation, a thousand times.
However, I have rarely seen other conservation scientists refute this claim. In my experience, when people push back against trophy hunting, it is usually members of the public, animal rights groups, filmmakers, or conservation professionals who are not scientists per se.
The fact that multiple authors would publish letters in a prestigious journal like Science to challenge the dominance of trophy hunting – which is a risky move – makes me wonder if opposition to the practice is growing.
To be clear, I am talking about trophy hunting: the practice of paying vast sums of money to shoot endangered animals in often rigged settings. I am not discussing subsistence hunting, or the carefully-managed, sustainable sport hunting of non-endangered species.
For more information, please read Melissa Gaskill’s original article in The Revelator.