by Deborah Hadfield
Would you like a lion in your living room? You won’t be breaking any laws if you do – not even the upcoming private member’s bill by MP Henry Smith in Westminster to ban the import of hunting trophies.
These lions are flawless, realistic fakes. They can be designed to be just like the lion you shot. They can be cheaper than a full mount of your lion, and they will never suffer from moths. Rishi Sunak’s government is backing Henry Smith’s anti-hunting bill even though these replica trophies mean it will be obsolete before it hits the statute book
Daryl Good’s company Kanati Studio makes animal replicas.
He says: “We can take a photo of a hunted lion, rhino or polar bear and actually recreate a trophy that looks just like the hunted animal. We can match anything down from scars on the face to coloration of a mane to make it look just like a hunting trophy.”
Henry Smith’s bill is on its way to becoming bad law before it’s passed. Even then it may not survive, as a recent short-lived US ban shows. President Obama banned the import of ivory in 2015. In 2017 President Donald Trump tweeted that big game trophy hunting was a horror show. He realised soon realised what a mistake he had made for conservation and lifted the ban on importing elephant trophies in 2018.
Michael Coppersmith’s company helps hunters ship trophies home from all over the world.
Michael says the import ban in the US didn’t deter hunters going to Africa.
He says: “It didn’t stop them from hunting elephants. They were still going over and there’s lots of species that are still viable species.”
He says the elephant population is higher today than it has been in hundreds of years because of sustainable hunting.
That’s another reason that Henry Smith’s law won’t work. Also is the mischaracterisation of hunting tourists. It’s hard to find an Ernest Hemingway among them these days.
Carol Gritt is a retired civil servant from Hampshire. She has just returned from South Africa, where she donated the meat from her hunt, including an impala, to a nearby orphanage. She says: “Impalas are not particularly big, but they have still got a lot of meat on them. We took it to an orphanage with 40 children and they’re absolutely over the moon because it’s all free.”
Even though his business relies on the export not the import of trophies, and the UK government doesn’t want to ban trophy export, professional deerstalker Niall Rowantree of West Highland Hunting opposes a trophy import ban because it damages conservation. He says that at the Dallas Safari Club event earlier in 2023 he heard the Ambassador for Tanzania address the conservation committee. He says: “I know a lot of people that don’t support hunting hear us talking about conservation at Dallas Safari Club and ask what’s the connection?” He says that, in biodiversity terms, Tanzania is one of the wealthiest in the world. Niall says the ambassador posed the question that “without a credible alternative, why are well-meaning people trying to remove something that funds conservation?”
Ecologist Dr Cathy Mayne says people struggle to make the connection between hunting and conservation. She says: “I don’t know of anywhere I’ve been to where hunting is an activity with economic value, where conservation doesn’t also go hand in hand with it. And this is particularly true in Africa, where the conservation of wildlife is very, very closely linked with trophy hunting or hunting.”
She says people need to look beyond the idea of trophy hunting to appreciate it’s all about the experience. She says: “Many of the animals that are culled are actually ripe for culling.”
Niall and Cathy say a more sensible approach to regulation of trophies is to persuade hunters not to hunt animals before the animals reach their prime.
Cathy says: “The smart thing to do would be for the sector to start to change how it values trophy. So, a trophy of an animal in its prime with a most magnificent spread would actually be something you wouldn’t want to put on your wall because it says the wrong thing that you really want a trophy of an animal that is right for culling.”
Niall says there is scope for change and the hunting community can no longer assume that they we have rights to do things.
He says: “We all as a species have to start using this planet more sustainably. And if people are looking for more transparency in hunting, then why not? I personally would like to see a move and in the trophy market, and I don’t like the word trophy because trophy means so many different things to different people.”
Niall says when people harvest game animals, there should be ethics and an environmental reason for it.
He says: “Animals in their prime shouldn’t be taken unless there’s a legitimate cause. Could it be habitat? Could it be welfare? If not, if it’s a stag or a bull elephant in his prime have a good reason before you kill him. And I think if we get that message across to the public, we can be seen as what we should be seen as: a safe pair of hands.”
For Carol Gritt, nothing can replace the experience of hunting. She wants to do everything she can to protect the communities she supports when she makes her trips to Africa. She is concerned that, if the import ban goes ahead, communities that depend on trophy hunting will suffer. She says: “The schools will lose out on the meat and the businesses, the land, and the animal numbers will go down.”
Michael says if other countries follow suit and ban the importing of hunting trophies it will affect ecosystems around the world. He says: “You have to add value to animals. And if you don’t have a value and you have hundreds of thousands of acres that you work and farm wild game then what are you going to do with it?”
He says that ban hunting and the only place you would see wild game is national parks. He says: “You would see fewer of every species and you’d go back to the days where there was no regulation and no conservation, and species would be decimated.”
Daryl’s company is one of many options hunters can choose if they can;t import trophies to their own countries. It costs almost US$11,000 to mount a lion. There are cheaper options out there such as 3D printing.
This allows hunters to have horns or antlers of an animal they have shot copied and recreated in their own country.
Daryl says: “There are companies that are doing that type of thing: 3D rendering and 3D printing of horns or antlers.
“What we’re offering is more of a one-off, hand-built from scratch product.”
The problem seems to be politicians with an agenda who are choosing to ignore technology.