17 June 2019

South Africa: Elephant Culling and Hunting Is a Throwback to Defending Slavery


We have to pursue co-existence and shared benefits rather than a crude utilitarianism that wilfully endorses cruelty.

When I read Ron Thomson's response to my article questioning the wisdom of reintroducing elephant trophy hunting to Botswana after a five-year moratorium, I was reminded of British abolotionist William Wilberforce's opponents who defended the Atlantic slave trade on the grounds that it was a "necessary evil".

John Pollock, who penned the epic Wilberforce biography, wrote:

"A Grosvenor uncle of Wilberforce's young friend Lord Belgrave spoke third, arguing that the Trade was nasty but necessary; in Dolben's summary: '... The wisest thing we can do is to shut our eyes, stop our ears and run away from the horrid sounds without enquiring about it, or words to this effect'."

I invite Thomson to read the biography, as he might find echoes of this defence of slavery in the logic he applies to the ecological management of elephants. Defenders of slavery argued that its abolition would lead to an immediate loss of the British colonies. The colonial attitude, of course, remains pervasive among those who defend the trophy hunting of elephants. It is fascinating that those who defend hunting tend to argue that "the...

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