Ukip leader Nigel Farage is the latest famous figure to wade into the furore sparked by a US dentist shooting and killing Cecil, a famous Zimbabwean lion, by saying he would not have shot the animal.
Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, has become the subject of an international outcry after he and two Zimbabwean guides allegedly lured the lion out of a national park and shot it with a crossbow.
A 40-hour search for the cat culminated in Cecil being shot dead with a gun, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
The dentist said in a statement that he “had no idea” the lion was famous, protected, or subject to an Oxford University study. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt,“ he said.
Asked to address the issue during the Radio 5 Live Breakfast programme, Farage, who opposes the UK's fox hunting ban, said he would not have shot the protected lion, but argued the backlash distracts from the issue of illegal poaching.
“No I wouldn’t [have shot the lion] but I would have to say I’m worried about this debate. The anger and the ire that is being directed towards this wealthy American [worries me].
“What I don’t want us to do is to turn a blind eye to the real problem of wildlife in Africa which is poaching on an industrial scale. So let’s get our priorities right here.”
“Many parts of Africa they use this to fund wildlife programmes,” he said.
The most controversial animal killings
The most controversial animal killings
1/6 Cincinnati Zoo worker shots and kills Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker after a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe. The incident was recorded on video and received broad international coverage and commentary, including controversy over the choice to kill Harambe. A number of primatologists and conservationists wrote later that the zoo had no other choice under the circumstances, and that it highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2/6 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
Walter James Palmer has been named by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He is now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges. The lion was protected and the subject of a decade long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in the UK. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said that two men were charged with poaching in connection to Mr Palmer
3/6 Kendall Jones hunting images
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech university student, has provoked worldwide fury after posting pictures of herself smiling next to animals she hunted, including a lion, rhinoceros, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus
4/6 Rebecca Francis hunting images
Rebecca Francis, a huntress who has killed dozens of wild animals has been sent death wishes by furious social media users after a picture showing her lying down next to a dead giraffe was circulated. Rebecca Francis has a website and Facebook page dedicated to the animals she has killed in hunts across Africa and America. Francis, a prolific hunter who has also co-hosted the television show Eye of the Hunter, regularly posts pictures of herself posing next to dead bears, giraffes, buffaloes and zebras, among other animals. She uses a bow and arrow to kill her prey
5/6 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
Copenhagen Zoo made the controversial decision to euthanise a healthy giraffe named Marius, which was later dissected and fed to lions as visitors watched. The slaughter sparked a furious backlash from social media users and zoo staff have received death threats by phone and email. Soon after the incident, Copenhagen Zoo faced an international outcry once again after four healthy lions were put down
6/6 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
A Switzerland zoo faced heavy criticism from animal rights groups, after keepers put down a healthy brown bear cub to spare it from being bullied by its dominant male father. The 360 kg male bear Misha had already killed one of his 11-week old cubs in public and was bullying the second, staff at the zoo said, because he was jealous of the attention the cubs were receiving from their mother, Masha. Both adult brown bears had been donated to Bern’s Dählhölzli zoo in 2009. Campaigners condemned staff there for not separating the cubs, who are being referred to as Baby Bear Two and Baby Bear Three, and their mother from Misha after their birth in January
At least 600 lions of the 30,000 living across the continent are shot during trophy-hunting exercises each year, according to estimates by International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Hunters from the US are responsible for the majority of lions killed.
Farage’s comments come after model Cara Delevingne, Ricky Gervais and Juliette Lewis condemned Palmer’s actions.
This #WalterPalmer is a poor excuse of a human being!— Cara Delevingne (@Caradelevingne) July 28, 2015