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Animal Rights And Trophy Hunting

Trophy hunting is the shooting of carefully selected animals for one's own pleasure. The animals hunted are frequently big animals such as rhinos, elephants, lions, pumas, and bears and this deed is done under the official government license. The trophy is the animal or its valuable parts that the hunter keeps as a souvenir.

Evidence of trophy hunting can be traced back to the late 19th century. The first official record of trophy hunting available is from 1892 from a man named Rowland Ward. He outlined what he called the Horn Measurements and Weights of the Great Game of the World. Paintings from the Mughal period depict Mongol, Rajput, Turk, and Afghan nobility hunting from elephant or horseback. These outings were considered an extrinsic, heroic sport and animals were the ultimate trophies.

In India, the   Mughal emperor's pursuits of trophy hunting are not only deemed unethical or even illegal from today's point of view but also barbaric in general terms. In the 17th century, such legalistic and ethical understanding was yet to emerge. Staging elaborate big game hunts was also a favourite pastime for the British Raj who succeeded the Mughals, an activity that showcased their royalty, power, and wealth.

Some support trophy hunting on account of its economic value as it provides a substantial income to local communities through trade and development of tourism. Another argument presented by those in favour of this practice is that it helps in keeping the wildlife population in check and also ensures the stability of the food chain as it wipes out excess population.

Tanzania which is the home for forty percent of the lion population of the African continent claims that the animal population is not harmed in any way due to trophy hunting.

To this, the director of Tanzanian Wildlife, Alexander Songarwa presented a report in the New York Times about Saving Lions by Killing Them.  According to his statistics, trophy hunting had added $75 million to the Tanzanian economy.

On the other hand, various resources deny the claim of trophy hunting being economically viable. More often than not, healthy male animals are hunted by wealthy foreign hunters thereby destabilizing populations. The animals that are left behind suddenly become comparatively more dominant and kill their cubs.

Second, this practice can be termed as counter-revolutionary because it is being selective about large and robust males.

Third, this punctures the arguments often made that such hunting contributes to other-wise poor communities. Going by reports of even pro-hunting organizations, not more than 3% of the revenue collected from trophy hunting reaches the communities that are affected by it.

Other studies have similarly exhibited that the revenue generated through this practice does not reach people who live in these areas. Communities from Zambia and Botswana claim that the wild animals which were left behind after they banned trophy hunting would kill livestock and destroy crops.

Several articles argue that the debate and discussions on trophy hunting are wrongly pitched between those who consider hunting economically beneficial and those who don't. In essence, both generate an illusion of empirics with ethical reasoning getting a backseat. This argument can be explained by the given example.

If one claims that the building of multipurpose dams generates electricity or water supply for city dwellers, industrialists, and farmers and then generates data that supports the argument, one cannot prove that wrong empirically. It is only when we look at the argument normatively or ethically, do we realize its dubiousness. This reasoning is thus based on utilitarianism which states that if benefits increase the cost of a project, it is morally and ethically correct where benefits are being understood in the orthodox economic sense.

It is argued that if certain animals are allowed to be hunted, the rest could be cared for better. This insinuates that certain species of animals are made scapegoats so that other species can live.  This resembles the arguments of those who advance the political majoritarian sentiments. Here lies the indispensable case of speciesism a one-way value-creation regarding animals. Individualism is taken as a human trait, not that of animals.

Animals are so non-individualistic that anyone can eliminate some from a species without raising much dust.  This understanding allows a few animals to be hunted for the sake of majorities.  Classical individualism is normally held as an antidote to sexism, racism as well as speciesism

Thus, trophy hunting is extrapolated from utilitarian reasoning.  It not only plays havoc with the environment but also justifies and reinforces the underlying belief that the environment is an unrelated or irrelevant domain for economic benefits.

This practice takes away the agency of essentially voiceless beings, it denies the individuality of animals and militates against their right to exist. From any ethical point of view, rationalizing animal killings for the sake of entertainment is untenable.

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