Hypocritical animal rights activists are putting African lives at risk

Rodgers Lubilo

May 19, 2023

Animal rights groups now support culling dangerous animals in their home countries to protect human life, by are denying Africans the same protection.

Bears in Italy, wolves in Sweden, and foxes in the UK – what do these have in common? Answer: They’re all being culled as part of wildlife management initiatives.

After decades of work reintroducing natural predators to nature-depleted Western ecosystems, Westerners are waking up to the real danger these animals can pose to human life. Living with wild, dangerous animals requires proactive management, and Western countries are correct to reject animal rights fanatics protesting these culls. Human life must always come first.

If only Western governments took the same approach to wildlife management in Africa. In recent years, animal rights activists have successfully lobbied governments to restrict hunting in Africa. The UK is currently debating whether to ban the import of hunting trophies, for example. Legislation like this is not only hypocritical, given Western governments are now culling wild animals themselves, but it smacks of neo-colonialism. Why should the lives of Africans be put at risk to protect wildlife, when no one expects Westerners to be endangered?

Only two weeks ago, Andrea Papi was mauled to death by a bear when jogging in the Italian Alps. Two years ago, the same bear had previously attacked a father and son. Then, animal rights groups managed to suspend the provincial governor’s order to have the bear put down. This time, they were unsuccessful. The bear has been captured and is due to be euthanised. Having only reintroduced bears to the region two decades ago, Italy is learning that living with dangerous predators is a balancing act. One which occasionally requires putting human life first.

It’s a similar story across the Western world. 54 wolves were culled in Sweden earlier this year, in the country’s largest cull to date. Wolf populations have risen sharply in recent decades since wolves were declared an endangered species, leading to the Swedish rural affairs minister to declare that “the level of conflict [between wolves and humans] has increased, and that the level of [Swedes] acceptance [of it] has fallen.”

In the UK, last week The Daily Telegraph revealed that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is employing people to hunt and kill foxes “away from public view.” This is despite the charity publicly chastising UK hunting organisations for the same practices. Lord Botham wisely commented that the “eco-left charity” needs to “move away from the Disney view of the countryside in which we pretend that tough choices on controlling predators can be avoided.”

These are all positive steps, demonstrating the West is beginning to realise that wildlife management involves making difficult decisions. But the West is yet to apply to same good logic to conservation in Africa. Instead, naïve animal rights activists have undue influence. These groups would rather Africans live in fear than admit that humanely killing iconic species can – on occasion – be the most appropriate course of action.

For example, the UK’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill would undermine the vital revenue trophy hunting generates for conservation. Taking this income away not only further impoverishes African communities, it undermines the integrity of conservation areas, putting people in closer proximity with dangerous animals.

This is a very real danger. Last month in Zimbabwe, Elizabeth Ndlovu was gored by a buffalo and Elliot Sianyanga were attacked by an elephant. Both have since succumbed to their injuries. Unlike the death of Andrea Papi, neither attracted international media attention. Every year, thousands of Africans lose their lives to human-animal conflict. Most would be preventable if conservation areas were adequately funded.

Both incidents took place around the Hwange National Park, where ‘Cecil the Lion’ was famously killed by an American hunter. The event triggered an outburst of outrage from animal rights groups, who are now lobbying Western governments, including those in America, France, Sweden and Belgium, to restrict hunting in Africa.

Given animal rights groups such as the RSPB are now actively engaging in hunting, this is absurdly hypocritical. But more insidiously, it points towards the neo-colonial mindset within the animal rights movement. Why is it acceptable for Africans to die to protect wildlife, when no one expects Westerners to make the same sacrifice? Animal rights groups value the lives of Westerners more than Africans.

Africa has an enviable conservation record, boasting an array of iconic species, while countries like the UK are home to none. Western animal rights activists could learn a lot from how we live with dangerous animals.


Written by Rodgers Lubilo

Dr Rodgers Lubilo is Chairperson of the Community Leaders Network.

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