What's in their mind?
Among all the interviews Chris and I gave over the last few days about the hunting of Cecil, one stands out in terms of the questions I was asked.
A Polish journalist asked me two questions:
1. How difficult is it to hunt a lion?
2. What sort of person would travel to Africa to shoot a lion?
Question 1 was easy to answer.
Hunting a lion is easy. You hire a professional hunter/operator with a large staff. Animals are shot and dragged for kilometres leaving a blood trail. That bait is then hung in a tree. Trail cameras are installed and examined in the morning. Did a male lion take the bait? If so, a “blind” is set up, the hunter installed and a waiting game ensues. If the male lion shows up again, he gets shot with a rifle or bow and arrow from close range. Easy as 1,2,3. Lion baiting is standard practice in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique at least. A child could shoot a lion.
Forget about slogging through the bush following tracks and “fair chase” and pitting the “skill” of the hunter against the instinct of an animal able to avoid the hunter. Lions are delivered to your doorstep like a pizza. As Cecil was.
Question 2 was very difficult to answer.
What is it in the psyche of a person who wants to travel to Africa to shoot a magnificent and endangered animal for pleasure and personal satisfaction? Let’s examine that a bit more closely.
The outpouring of emotion over Cecil shows that people call trophy hunters a number of names – like psychopaths, sociopaths, deviants, sadists, murderers. Such labels can be expected – after all the killing of Cecil is now a highly emotional issue.
But can trophy hunters be placed in such categories of vilification?
I suggest that psychologists undertake a thorough and professional study of trophy hunters to see how they are different from the rest of the majority of the world population.
But meanwhile, let me offer this for consideration.
1. Are trophy hunters psychopaths?
A psychopath is defined as follows;
A psychopath is a person who is incapable of sympathy or empathy and takes no responsibility for his/her actions. They are often grandiose, meaning that they consider themselves above others. Psychopaths are characterized as being remorseless and narcissistic. People of this personality disorder may display no empathy towards others and no remorse or guilt. However, they can mimic emotions almost perfectly to further their own personal agendas, are very skilled in the arts of deception, and may actually appear charming, friendly, or even likable. Some psychopaths will engage in severe antisocial behavior, such as murder (even serial or mass murder), animal cruelty, or sexual crimes. Conversely, for some the manifestation of their pathology is limited to non-criminal behavior such as promiscuity, cheating, or lying.
Many trophy hunters would fall into that category, but so would many who are not trophy hunters. Perhaps it is just money that allows trophy hunters to fulfil their psychopathic tendencies? I will let you evaluate how Walter Palmer fits into the category of a psychopath given all that has been published about him. He has certainly entertained sexual crimes.
2. Are trophy hunters sociopaths?
Sociopaths are like psychopaths in the sense that they are incapable of feeling empathy, guilt, and remorse. Unlike psychopaths, they aren't as capable of feigning emotions, and are unable to maintain social relationships and hold down a steady job.
So no, trophy hunters are not sociopaths.
3. Are trophy hunters murderers?
Murder is a term that relates to killing another human being. Trophy hunters kill animals under the guise of quotas and licenses so they are not murderers. Cecil showed that quotas and “legal” hunts mean nothing.
4. Do trophy hunters enjoy killing?
Yes they do. Why else would they spend all that money? Conservation hunting, sustainable hunting of endangered and vulnerable species are empty phrases.
5. So who trophy hunts for pleasure?
That remains a very difficult question to answer. Perhaps there are some trophy hunters who “innocently” believe the propaganda and rhetoric they get fed that trophy hunting promotes conservation and financially benefits wildlife. Those need an education.
Perhaps there are some who believe it is their “right” to spend their money to travel to Africa to shoot a Cecil, an elephant, a zebra, a leopard, a buffalo, a kudu, a dikdik. It is all legal, so if you can afford the fees, why not get on the plane and bring back your stuffed animals?
Always remember that these people are supported by a vast network of organizations, including some of the most prominent names in wildlife ”conservation”. A trophy hunter’s desires are therefore justified in their minds.
So – like I said, it will need professional psychologists to come up with a personality profile for a trophy hunter. But meanwhile you can accept that terms like “narcissist” and “lack of empathy” will surely apply.