Our destructive abuse of the animal kingdom
2015-08-15 12:20:31 -
World News

Michael McGowan


The killing of Cecil the African lion has sparked international outrage against hunting for sport, has drawn attention to the plight of threatened and protected species, and drawn attention to the whole range of issues concerning animal protection and welfare.


Although trophy hunting involving the selective killing of wild animals for sport has long been controversial, the killing of Cecil, who by all accounts was quite the attraction in his Zimbabwe reserve, has caused anger and protests from across the world.


Trophy hunters would often have us believe they are contributing to economic growth in African countries, but in fact only 18 per cent of tourist revenue comes from hunting; the rest comes from the likes of wildlife viewing and photo safaris.


What’s more, the steepest declines in lion populations are in countries with the highest hunting intensity, and it has been shown that the funds from hunting reaching the local community are miniscule. 


It is sometimes said that Europe should concern itself with hunting and animal welfare in Europe and not Africa but the answer must be that what happens in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world is the responsibility of all of us who share our planet.




African lions enjoy a relatively ‘free range’ existence compared with the average factory chicken, confined in a space the size of a piece of A4 paper, with a life span of about six weeks, in massive filthy sheds full of their own excrement, denied sunlight and fresh air.


It should also be pointed out that millions of songbirds migrating across the countries of the EU, especially Cyprus and Malta, are slaughtered by ‘hunters’ – a practice that must end lest our bird populations be gradually wiped out forever.


The popular holiday resort of Malta lies on one of these key bird migration routes, and every autumn thousands of Maltese hunters point their guns skyward to blast these birds out of the sky. Action by the EU has greatly improved the situation, although the slaughter continues on that Mediterranean island country, and there are still problems in Cyprus. But the slaughter of birds in Malta has brought bird protection and animal welfare high on the EU agenda.


Of course, African lions, European chickens and migratory birds all deserve human respect and consideration, and the reality that they don’t get it raises the basic question of how we value our animal world.



Serious threat

This month sees the start of the UK bird shooting season with the so-called ‘Glorious Twelfth of August’, which is the start of grouse shooting, followed by the opening of pheasant shooting ‘sport’ in September. In recent years this period has seen a big increase in ‘driven shooting’ with beaters used to direct the birds towards the guns of the hunters, which is extremely damaging to the environment and is a serious threat to rare bird species such as the golden eagle.


Animal welfare has always had a high priority in the European Parliament; it has dominated correspondence from MEPs constituents, and many MEPS have raised questions on this wide-ranging subject. Key issues raised in the European Parliament include cruel battery farming methods, imports of baby seal products, the cruel production of foie gras (which many MEPs boycotted in restaurants), calls for harmonisation of legislation on the import of pets, the export of live carves, concerns about the fur leg hold trap and transport of live animals for slaughter.


We face a serious problem when some of our fellow human beings seek thrills and pleasure from hunting, killing and cruelty to animals. Hunting and killing animals and birds for sport is obscene, and cruelty to animals is unacceptable in a modern civilised world.



Michael McGowan is a former MEP and president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament

TAGS : Cecil the African lion Animals Hunting Trophy Hunting Zimbabwe EU Cyprus Malta MEP European Parliament Animal Cruelty
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