I am a passionate supporter of the Monarchy as an institution (though I have had occasion once or twice recently to castigate our Crown Prince over his rather wild views on climate and the environment). So I’m happy to have an opportunity to take up the cudgels on behalf of Princes William and Harry. Apparently these two young scions of the House of Windsor recently went off to Spain to shoot wild boar and deer, just a few days before Prince William, along with his father Prince Charles, launched a new campaign with an impassioned appeal to save endangered species — and especially the rhinoceros, prized in Asia, where its ground horn is regarded as a medicine (though of course it has no medicinal properties at all, apart perhaps from the placebo effect).
Naturally Prince William has copped a lot of flak from the animal rights brigade, who maliciously and mendaciously accuse him of “hypocrisy”, for on the one hand arguing for conservation, and on the other, shooting game. Both the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail (who ought to know better) have covered the story. The BBC is there too.
There is, of course, a fundamental difference between an endangered species like the rhino, which urgently needs all the protection (and captive breeding programmes) we can give it, and animals which are plentiful. I don’t know much about wild boar numbers in Spain, but there are parts of the UK where both boar and deer are present in numbers that are problematic, and where culling is indicated. For such animals, shooting offers a win-win-win option. It is relatively humane. It controls numbers. It’s a sport that many find attractive. And it provides a source of good, wild, low-cost meat raised in a natural way. I should think that the bunny-huggers who have concerns about factory-farming of cattle ought to be urging us to eat more bunnies. And wild boar, and venison.
In exactly the same way (though less attractive as a source of meat), foxes need to be culled. They are smaller and more difficult to shoot cleanly, and I have often argued that hunting foxes with hounds is not only a great British tradition, and for those who follow the hunt, a great sport, but also the most humane culling method. It’s the only culling method that virtually guarantees that a fox either escapes free and clear, or dies in a few seconds in a rush of adrenalin. All other culling methods risk leaving the animal to die slowly and painfully of gangrene in a ditch. And it’s the only culling method that preferentially takes old, weak or sick animals, so improving the Darwinian fitness of the population.
The issue of endangered species is entirely separate, and has absolutely no bearing on the sport of shooting at all (providing you’re not shooting big cats, for example). I commend Prince William both for his commitment to the sport of shooting, and for his initiative to protect the rhino. And I regard the two activities as entirely consistent with each other.
I am hugely distressed to think that there may soon be no big cats in the wild, unless we do more to protect and conserve them. I feel a particular concern for the jaguar (for reasons to obvious to mention). And if you can spare 37 seconds to see a real live jaguar doing what jaguars do, click here.