Cecil the lion killing: Nigel Farage says he would not have shot the animal, but warns debate shouldn't distract from issue of poaching

A US dentist has caused outrage for shooting a lion

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The Independent Online

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.

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.