Sir David Scholey looks rather pleased to be him. He’s got the polished look of a plutocrat, and the slightly crooked smile that speaks of a practised smugness. As a banker by trade, he’s hardly likely to win a public popularity contest, and he’s also described as a “Tory donor”, although the extent of his generosity towards the Conservative Party, as far as we know, is a donation of £5,000 to Ken Clarke’s leadership campaign in 2005. So we can’t really hold that against him.
Overnight, however, this millionaire knight of the realm, who’s also a former director of the Bank of England and a one-time BBC governor, has become public enemyNo 1, subject of the obligatory hate campaign on social media and of an internet petition aimed at getting his knighthood rescinded. Sir David is not pictured snorting cocaine with prostitutes. No, his crime is much, much worse. He’s there, leaning, rather triumphantly, on the bloodied corpse of a lion he shot for amusement in Zambia.
“It’s entirely a personal matter,” said Sir David about the incident. Oh no, it’s not, you ignorant man. Taking coke with sex workers is a personal matter. Lion hunting – and, to my mind, any other pastime that involves the killing of defenceless animals – is a matter of public interest. It is a question of humanity, and the fact that it still takes place diminishes us all.
The distressing story of Cecil, the 13-year-old lion who was murdered by a middle-aged dentist from Minnesota with plenty of previous (from illegally shooting a black bear to being accused of sexual harassment where he settled out of court) has provoked outrage around the world.
The defenders of big game hunting will say that the practice preserves the natural balance of wilderness areas, and protects weaker species. Moreover, the money made from this form of tourism is ploughed back into conservation projects.
I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I’m more interested in the human impulse that drives men (and it is almost exclusively men) to think there’s something clever, brave or entertaining about shooting an animal dead. I just don’t get it. I once tackled a friend of mine on the subject of pheasant shooting. I couldn’t understand why he insisted on referring to it as a sport. Until the pheasants are armed with shotguns and ammunition, I said, it can hardly be considered a contest.
Of course, there’s a big difference between shooting a pheasant, which has probably been bred to be killed, and murdering a lion, but they are on the same awful continuum.
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
A game bird is regarded by its killers as a trophy in very much the same way as a lion. The only difference is that you may end up eating a pheasant, so at least there is a point to its death; a lion’s head will merely be mounted on a wall as a testament to man’s superiority, not to mention wealth.
The whole thing is warped and the revulsion expressed at the demise of Cecil will only serve a purpose if it causes the EU (who permit the import of lion trophies) to tighten the rules, and people such as Sir David Scholey to think again.Reuse content