By Daniel Antunes
If you grew up in the 90s/early 2000s it’s highly likely that watching ‘The Simpsons’ played an integral part in your upbringing. Comedic, relatable and satirical, at least for the first 13 or so seasons, the cartoon show rocketed to pop culture infamy becoming a one of the most avidly watched shows of all time. A popular staple within the series are its Halloween Tree Houses of Horror specials. Normally parodying or referring to haunting literature and horror films the satirical edge employed throughout these episodes often led people to investigate the parody’s origin or the point being put across by the show’s writers. For me one of the most striking episodes in the catalogue is Tree House of Horror XVI, in particular the segment entitled “Survival of the Fattest”, a parody of the highly popular adventure book ‘A Most Dangerous Game’, which sees its archetypal villain, Mr. Burns, hunt some of his fellow simpsonites for his own amusement. Pushing this selection of Simpsons characters to flee in terror against a man who possessed what can only be described as a more than unfair advantage, we really see how fine line the line between hunter and hunted can be.
As I watched these cartoon antics a question emerged in the forefront of my young mind – What fuels a man to hunt something that is unable to fight back?
The shooting of specially selected endangered and exotic animals for sport or a sense of empowerment has long been a symbol for post-colonial entitlement. Keeping parts as ‘trophies’ or souvenirs to commemorate their vile actions, the act panders to those who only wish to take from foreign environments to bring into their own as a type of boast. With it unfortunately being legal in certain places, such as special hunting reserves, this commodifying of our natural world is something that is seen as hugely outdated but persists within the higher echelons of wealth due to lucrative gain.
With ITV’s popular series ‘Love Island’ having returned last month the topic was brought into the public spotlight as a photo of contestant Ollie Williams squatting next to a dead animal, presumably a product of trophy hunting, circulated the internet. Although Ollie refuted the claims, stating that the picture was from volunteering at an anti-poaching conservation in Mozambique, ITVs lack of response on the matter was troubling. When a major media corporation dismisses the slew of Ofcom complaints that its show was hit with you have to wonder where its priorities are at. Whether it’s in order to appease donators who may divulge in trophy hunting or an institutionalised apathy towards the matter the unwillingness of the channel to address it is truly unsettling.
Ignoring such heinous acts leads to the continued fetishisation of exotic animals promoting the illegal trading of endangered animals/animal parts. With the biodiversity of our natural world being so fragile it’s essential that we protect endangered animals so that the balance of our ecosystem can be maintained. The loss or reduction of a species can greatly shift the nature of a habitat by effecting food chains which in turn creates a disproportion in regards to cross species competition for resources.
When specialised reserves are created to breed exotic animals for killing, in essence a glorified and rebranded slaughter house, we must once again question the allowance of such practices when this land and these animals could be benefited through conservation. With support from high profile celebs like Liam Gallagher, Judi Dench and Stanley Johnson backing the banning of trophy hunting especially in regards to imports and exports relating to it, (Gallagher even rightfully went as far as to label trophy hunters ‘‘‘spolied brats’’’) it’s a wonder that such disgusting behaviour is continued. I also have to wonder why we treat poaching as such a villainous act when trophy hunting sits in the same realm. Why is the difference in attitudes prompted by whether its framed as a luxury experience or part of black market, its utterly benign to debate the ethics of it when the answer is so painfully obvious. There’s also that reinforcing of social classes where South African villagers are sanctioned for protecting their livestock, a product of diminished environments forcing predators to widen their hunting scope, while the rich are encouraged to murder freely.
With all the above considered it astounds me as to why we allow this ego stroking, a product of a wanted feeling of masculinity, when the action is nothing but a cheap, sick thrill. With the proposed banning of trophy hunting in the UK having been of recent discussion in government we can only hope the right decision is made and it create a ripple effect banning of the practice.