The Thrill of the Kill
Pictures evoke responses and stories. When you look at this picture, what stories spring to mind about the trophy hunter, the hunt, the elephant, the owner of the reserve, other animals, gun lobbyists, environmental activists ….?
What beliefs and feelings come to the fore?
I wondered if the tusks would be sold, if the feet would be used as stools or ashtrays, the ears as floor mats, the tail as a wall-hanging. Is the photo a sort of medal celebrating ‘the kill’? Does the act itself satisfy some sort of blood-lust, an addictive testosterone-driven dominance and aggression, a need to prove ‘manhood’? I wondered about the one-sided ‘contest’, the hollow ‘victory’, about the land-owner’s role in things, about the hunter’s pose and self-satisfied smile.1 Or is it amusement?
I felt repulsion, disgust, sadness.
“Animals in a social group have relationships with each other…….. One African herd always travelled slowly because one of its members had never fully recovered from a broken leg suffered as a calf” and “…baby African elephants who have seen their families killed by poachers, and witnessed tusks being cut off bodies: these young animals wake up screaming in the night”. “’If I learned anything from my time among the elephants’ writes the scientist Douglas Chadwick:
It is the extent to which we are kin. The warmth of their families makes me feel warm. Their capacity for delight gives me joy. Their ability to learn and understand things is a continuing revelation for me. If a person can’t see these qualities when looking at elephants, it can only be because he or she doesn’t want to’”2
Elephants are critically endangered/endangered in a number of countries and vulnerable in Africa.3 Yet in response to this post I expect specious, spurious, fallacious arguments and protests from hunters.
1. McCallum, Ian Ecological Intelligence: rediscovering ourselves in nature Africa Geographic 2005
2. Masson, Jeffrey Moussaiff & McCarthy, Susan When Elephants Weep: the emotional lives of
animals Delta Book by Dell Publishing NY 1995