I read Annie Sager’s “apology” to Walter Palmer (“What it’s like to be one of ‘the accused,’ ” Sept. 16) and am a little confused on why an apology is warranted now, long after the damage has been done, and exactly what train of thought led her to believe that a traffic incident is even remotely relatable to Palmer’s killing of Cecil the lion and its aftermath.
In the Palmer/Cecil situation, the uneducated and ill-informed rantings of people online took a bad situation and blew it out of proportion on a global scale — all because it is easy for folks to attack from their computers.
But Palmer has done irreparable damage to hunting and the wildlife conservation it funds. He is a shameful example of people who call themselves hunters but refuse to live by the established code of ethics.
That being said, I am a hunter. I take trophies. It is this vague and undefined notion of “trophy hunting” that so many anti-hunters refuse to educate themselves on. Instead, they let their actions be driven by pure emotion. While I have no problem with people who choose not to hunt, I do have a problem with people who have refused to at least educate themselves attacking hunting.
North America stands alone in the world as having the most prolific populations of wild game and vast public lands where they reside. This is largely because of hunters. By the early 20th century, many species of mammals and birds in the U.S. were almost wiped out due to nonregulated market hunting. These animals weren’t being killed for trophies or even for meat; their only value was in the skins and feathers to be turned into consumer goods. Thankfully, a handful of hunters — primarily “trophy hunter” Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell and William Hornaday — realized that these animals and the lands they lived on were a vanishing resource that had played a huge part in the formation of the American identity.
Those men laid the foundation for what would become known as the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. The model has two basic principles — that our fish and wildlife belong to all Americans and that they need to be managed in a way that ensures their populations will be sustained forever. At the core of this model is the understanding that for animals to thrive, they have to have a value. That value, whether you like it or not, largely comes from hunting. This is true regardless of the hunter’s individual goal, be it meat or trophy.
Unfortunately, due to factors such as local social patterns and practices, poverty, etc., the model as we know it in America doesn’t work all over the world. Hunting in Africa is a gray area in a system that has no small amount of corruption and fraud. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities, but it is obvious that people waging attacks on Palmer have absolutely zero understanding of the situation.
What I can say is that South Africa’s population of large mammals has ballooned to about 24 million, the most since the 19th century, and up from 575,000 in the early 1960s. This is largely due to the privatization of wildlife, an idea that runs against the North American model but has proven to be the only way to protect animals in regions of Africa where they would otherwise be wiped out.
To hunt an animal is to act as a participant in the natural world, rather than as an observer, as a nonhunter would. After you have hiked 6 miles into the backcountry, stalked and killed an animal, packed it out by foot, and consumed its flesh, often the only thing left is the “trophy” of the hunt in the form of a skull, cape, antlers or horn. The person who comes into my office and sees such a trophy hanging on my wall sees only the physical remains of a dead animal, which is akin to seeing only that part of an iceberg above the waterline. The real trophy doesn’t come from what is seen, but from what is left unseen, and largely unspoken.
Daniel Born, of Northfield, is an environmental analyst.