Roaring for the animal kingdom

Sunday 8th June 2014

african_lion_king-wide

By James Hotham

What do David Beckham and I have in common? Not too much. I am hopeless at football and a long way off from being a multimillionaire. However, we do share a love for wildlife.

I was delighted by some great news recently from my home county of Lincolnshire. Two fabulous tigers – Tango, the former Esso advert star, and his partner Julia – were saved from destruction in Belgium and given a new home at the Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park. They were initially rescued from a German circus, where their treatment had been far from acceptable.

There is a plethora of organisations such as the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums which are tasked with ensuring animal welfare – be the animals in farms or zoos. Further to that, there is a healthy amount of legislation on animal welfare in the UK – from the Hunting Act to the ban on cosmetic testing on animals It should also be noted that the European Union plays an important role in the arena of animal welfare; for example, its ban on seal products. That is a fact which is rarely spoken about in the British mainstream media.

Speaking of animal welfare and in particular ritual slaughter, a real question must be raised about Halal and Kosher meat. Even if the practice applies to fewer than 10 per cent of all animals slaughtered in the UK, surely the prohibition of the use of stunning is morally wrong?

In a recent example of unnecessary animal cruelty, I stumbled across a disturbing Tweet, which received a lot of angry replies. The photograph showed a dead lion on the ground with its hunter, beaming with happiness, sat beside this poor creature. Trophy hunting is not sport; it is barbarism, plain and simple.

However, trophy hunting is big business. The practice of hunting vulnerable animals such as lions is called “canned hunting”, where the animals are bred in captivity, then released into bigger fenced areas and hunted down as ‘trophies’ by wealthy tourists who can afford it, with an average cost of £3,500 per normal coloured lion. Yet, a lion with a black mane can fetch around £17,000 while a white lion can earn as much as £100,000. The fact that an animal has a price tag attached to it demonstrates how to some people, animals are simply chattels, on this earth to benefit human beings.

A bigger problem with canned hunting is that in achieving those ‘trophies’, it promotes the hunting of lions in general, whose population estimates are as low as 32,000 across the whole of Africa. If the cost of hunting an innocent lion within a set up range is too high, then there is nothing to stop individuals from hunting wild free lions as a ‘trophy’, adding to the poaching epidemic.

In February 2013, the UK played host to representatives of governments from across Africa, Asia, America and Europe, who came together to agree on an international action plan against illegal trafficking in wildlife parts. Even China launched a “Say No to Ivory” campaign – a remarkable achievement considering the country’s voracious appetite for pointless ivory figurines. A sign of a brighter and better future, perhaps?

Back home to Britain, we need more MPs to step up to the plate and be counted before more animals become consigned to history. We need those politicians to be the voice for the voiceless. We have the “British Lions” and had “Richard The Lionheart” – these great cats are etched into our national psyche. Lions, along with all wildlife, need less words and more action in order to secure their future.

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